Facts about Benchgate
Ah, the bench. The black iron bench that has been at the corner of East Spring and Main for over 10 years is now the focus of tampering, a jury trial and endless speculation on Facebook.
That particular bench, along with her “sister benches,” was purchased and placed downtown by the Spring City Revitalization Group with money supplied by a Community Betterment Block Grant. The grant was a matching grant for $400,000. So, the SCRG had to raise another $400,000. That, along with a highway department grant (downtown is on a State Highway) and other donations, there was a little over $1,000,0000 to use on downtown El Dorado Springs. Over $500,000 was supplied by the downtown merchants in the form of improving their businesses. Please note that all of this was done with the approval and assistance of the City of El Dorado Springs.
The black trash cans and benches, which were considered “virtually” indestructible, fit nicely with the black lamp posts and all together they’re like a unifying black thread stitching together the eclectic patchwork quilt of downtown businesses. Each bench cost $1,000. Each is bolted to the sidewalk.
SCRG worked to improve the appearance of the downtown area. The city owns and maintains all of the improvements.
(We are an historic district – please note the neon sign at the corner of 54 and Main – an arrow pointing north.)
To the point.
Mrs. Kathie Truitt owns and operates The Hillbilly Debutante Mercantile and Pie Shoppe, the business on the corner of Main and East Spring, 101 N. Main to be exact. In May of this year she decided to paint the aforementioned bench pink. By her own admission, she did not ask permission.
She posted her incomplete project on Facebook. The same day city workers removed the bench for repair.
In the meantime, the city council, faced with something “unheard of,” couldn’t make up their minds as to what to do when it really wasn’t up to them.
It is true that a council member at the July 5 city council meeting asked if Mrs. Truitt would contribute to the cost of repair. She agreed. City Manager Bruce Rogers was asked how much he thought the repair would be and he said it might be around $450 to $470. However, there was never a vote brought before the council as to how much or when. It is also true that Councilman Jim Luster said it was a police matter. And it was.
On July 20, Police Chief Jarrod Schierek served Mrs. Truitt with a citation for tampering. Section 32-76 of the city’s code of ordinances reads: A person commits the offense of tampering if:(1) Tampers with property of another for the purpose of causing substantial inconvenience to that person or to another (2) Unlawfully rides in or upon another’s automobile, airplane, motorcycle, motorboat or other motor-propelled vehicle; or (3) Tampers or makes connection with property of a utility.
She was referred to municipal court. The posted fine for tampering is $134.50.
However, Mrs. Truitt did send a check for $470 to the city. It was returned to her by City Manager Bruce Rogers stating that he had talked to the City Prosecutor, and he advised that the city should return the check for two reasons. (1), the actual amount to restore the bench to the original condition is not yet known and, (2), once a summons is issued the City Prosecutor and the Municipal Court will handle the adjudication of the case.
On Aug. 5, Kathie Truitt’s attorney, Tad Morlan, requested a jury trial.
The first trial date was set for Sept. 8. It has been postponed.
The maximum sentence for tampering is 90 days in jail and/or a $500 fine. Mrs. Truitt is a first- time offender.