There was plenty of other business on the agenda, but the main focus of the Slater City Council meeting Tuesday, Sept. 17, was vandalism in city parks.
Mayor Stephen Allegri passed around photographs of the most recent incident, which occurred some time over the weekend of Sept. 13-14, again to Kiddie Park bathrooms. This time, the damage was more permanent -- extensive spray-painting of gang-related graffiti and foul language.
Among the possible solutions being considered for dealing with the problem is a proposal to lock up the parks and the bathrooms after 10:30 p.m., a step the council is reluctant to take.
Slater has had a 10:30 p.m. curfew for children aged 17 or younger for at least 40 years.
After the August incident, Allegri invited local high school students to help with a solution. In response to his invitation, several students, accompanied by Superintendent of Schools John McEachern and Slater High School Principal Jim Audsley, were present at the council meeting.
Audsley said, "(Our students) are a great bunch of kids, but there are always a few that ruin it for the rest. We have a lot of kids who are willing to get involved in helping to solve the problem, and many more who wanted to be here tonight, but couldn't make it."
The student group was very vocal about their concerns, pointing out the "problem" kids are in the minority.
"We feel it's getting blamed on (all of) us," said one, "when it's really just a small group of kids."
Another student commented, "We want to be able to be at the park and just hang out. With the price of gas, we can't afford to be just riding around."
Among the suggestions the student group presented were to institute a "neighborhood watch," involving greater awareness among people who live near the park, and the possibility of involving older students in patrolling the area.
The student group also suggested letters be sent to all parents, sharing students' concerns and encouraging parents to talk to their children about the problem. When council members questioned whether parents would actually receive the letters, if they were sent home with students, the student group said the letters should be sent through the post office and then volunteered to write the letter themselves.
One student said the letters might not be effective in some cases, pointing out that "some parents just don't care" where their children are or what they're doing. And another student added, "(These kids) know where the cops are, and they're constantly out past curfew (anyway)."
Students also recommended a school assembly with participation by the mayor, the council and the police chief would also be effective.
When asked by Assistant City Administrator Gene Griffith if they felt a reward for information would be helpful, the students said a reward would probably make little difference.
"Our reward is being able to go back to the park and not be in trouble for something someone else did," one said, to the agreement of the rest of the group.
In other business, the council heard from Tim Reeder, president of the Slater RC Club, about their recent remote control "fly-in" at the airport.
"We were delighted with the turnout," Reeder said. "This event is not just 'boys and their toys.' The bleachers were full almost the whole day. We appreciate you letting us use the facility and we have wonderful plans for the future."
Don Ronnebaum, one of the fly-in organizers, said there were 57 pilots at the event and 109 planes "from Columbia, Jefferson City, Kansas City, Springfield -- all over the state. We got a lot of response about our beautiful field. It was a good event and next year it will be bigger and better yet."
The next regular meeting of the council will be held Tuesday, Oct. 7, at 7 p.m.