Magistrates hope to catch Whites Park gate vandal on camera

Published 6:39 pm Thursday, April 11, 2019

Someone keeps cutting the lock on the gate between Whites Park and Millennium Park in Boyle County.

Boyle County shut and locked the gate last year after an investigation by a pair of magistrates confirmed public complaints of frequent, excessive speeding and heavy traffic on the road through Whites Park, which passes by a playground before continuing into Millennium Park.

But since the access to Millennium has been cut off, someone has been taking it upon themselves to reopen the road by cutting the lock off the gate. It’s happened six times, and some Boyle County officials believe the evidence points to one of their own employees.

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“This is a felony to destroy government property and if somebody is caught, the sheriff is going to bring them in and put them in our hotel over on the bypass,” said Magistrate Phil Sammons, referring to the county jail. “… It’s got to be an employee doing this. And I want that employee to get the message that he’ll be prosecuted. And I’ll be there to make the motion that he does.”

Why a county employee? Boyle County Judge-Executive Howard Hunt said the county borrowed a trail camera and used it to try to catch the vandal in the act.

“While the trail camera was up, nothing happened,” Hunt said. “As soon as it was taken down, it started getting cut again.”

Sammons said he and former Magistrate Jack Hendricks went out and observed the road through Whites Park last year after receiving complaints from residents about safety in the park due to speeders. They saw lots of traffic cutting through the park into Millennium, including big trucks, and plenty of speeding — all on a light-duty road surface not intended for substantial amounts of traffic.

Sammons and Hendricks reported back to Boyle County Fiscal Court what they found and the court voted to close and lock the gate to prevent the flow of through traffic.

Hunt said Tuesday one potential solution for the gate vandalism would be to erect a concrete barrier across the road. Some magistrates suggested doing away with the gate and just continuing the fence line across the road.

Magistrate Jason Cullen played devil’s advocate, asking whether leaving the road closed posed a safety concern because it means the only way for vehicles to get in and out of Millennium Park is through the main entrance.

“We’ve seen this in other towns and other cities where people are looking for ways to take out a mass amount of people and then ending their own life. That’s a concern we should look at,” Cullen said. “Before, I said it’s nice to have that road in and out for people in the park on that side of town so that way they don’t have to drive all the way around, all the way down that long drive. There is a convenience factor to that, but more than anything, there’s a safety concern.”

For now, magistrates want to give the trail camera strategy one more go. They voted unanimously Tuesday to use a trail camera donated by Boyle County Constable Dennis Curtsinger to observe the gate area again.

Magistrate John Caywood said even if the camera doesn’t catch anyone cutting the lock, it worked before to deter the vandal, so it could work again.