Memorial benches pulled from park

Conrad Zeller, Maintenence Specialist for the Rutland City Parks and Recreation Department, right, sockets down a purple bench in Depot Park last week. Robert Layman / Staff Photo

The benches were once again removed from Depot Park this week. "I wanted to put the benches back in and see if we could have some semblance of normalcy there," Mayor David Allaire said Wednesday. "Apparently, we can't." The purple benches were installed in the park as a memorial to Carly Ferro, who was killed by an intoxicated driver in 2012. Allaire said they might be placed in the newly opened Center Street Marketplace Park — formerly known as the Center Street alley — but he needed to have discussions with other city officials. The benches are in storage until the city decides what to do with them. Then-mayor Christopher Louras ordered all the seating removed from Depot Park in 2012 after a series of incidents there. He talked about a community engagement process that would lead to restoring the benches, but it never seemed to fully materialize. When a bench finally did appear in the park again in 2014, it was the first in a series memorializing Ferro. Ferro, 17, was killed just a few days after Louras removed the benches. When the first purple bench went in alongside a Little Library in October 2014, Louras said it was part of an effort to reclaim the park. It was paid for by the Purple Angel Foundation, which Ferro's family created in her memory. The bench was alone until last year, when more like it were installed. "Recently, there have been a number of issues including observations made by the mayor and others when we've received complaints about people drinking in the park, urinating in the bushes — unacceptable behavior," Police Chief Brian Kilcullen said. Allaire said the volume of calls at the park came up in a meeting with the police department several weeks ago, and he also learned people were using the electrical system there to charge their phones. On top of that, the Little Library was repeatedly vandalized. Allaire said he started by having power to the park turned off during the week, but it did not appear to help. The issue culminated over the weekend with someone urinating in the bushes. "To me, that did it," Allaire said. Alderman Tom DePoy, chairman of the board's Recreation Committee, said he was sorry to see the benches go. "Do I think the benches would be better off there?" DePoy asked. "Yeah, but as a public safety measure, we're trying to reduce the risk of vagrancy in the park." DePoy said he thought it was probably time for a larger discussion about how to manage the city's parks. "I don't know if that's necessary for a discussion in Recreation or in Public Safety," he said. "Maybe Monday I'll refer something to committee, and we'll start talking about it." DePoy said he saw a difference between Depot Park and parks he sees in other communities he visits. "There's a lot of other parks that are buttoned up better at night than we have ours," he said. "Maybe it's time we start — better lighting, maybe some cameras. I don't see fencing in Depot Park, but maybe less shrubbery."

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