Concerns at Page Branch Park spark need for new ordinances

 Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Due to some small issues at Page Branch Park, the committee has asked to have some ordinances written to help insure it stays a family fixture within the community.

Due to some small issues at Page Branch Park, the committee has asked to have some ordinances written to help insure it stays a family fixture within the community.

It would seem as though a few bad apples may have ruined it for a bunch as the Page Branch Park Committee asked for certain ordinances to be put in place for the park.

According to committee members, there have been a few incidents with young children vandalizing the park, as well as seemingly young children playing near the creek without parental supervision.

What the committee would like to see done is have an ordinance put together with age guidelines implemented, that anyone under a certain age is not allowed to be at the park unsupervised. Elsberry City Attorney Rob Guinness told the board that having an ordinance in place, could potentially prevent any kind of child endangerment issues, as well as help maintain the visual appeal of the park.

“For example, any child under the age of 11-years-old or younger they would have to be accompanied by a responsible party,” explained Guinness. “This ordinance would pertain to all parks, not just Page Branch.”

However, the committee also asked for an ordinance to be put together that makes it the parent’s responsibility if their child causes damage to the park. Elsberry Police Chief Robert Bodley asked about warning notices and how they should or could be implemented.

“In order to hold a parent responsible, they have to have notice that something has been done,” explained Guinness.

He also went on to confirm that these incidents would need to be documented in writing, which is similar to receiving a written summons to appear in court. Guinness also mentioned it would be a good idea to have signs posted in the parks letting visitors know of the possible new ordinance.

“The parental responsibility portion of this will simply mirror the already existing State Statute,” explained Guinness. “Meaning a state prosecutor could enforce it in a state court and it’s the feeling of the Page Branch Park Committee that if parents knew they could be financially responsible for what vandalism their children cause, they would prevent their children from committing it.”

Jo Ann Cordsiemon, member of the Page Branch Park Committee went on to explain how they hated to request such a thing but the kids that are out there unsupervised are little bitty and are playing extremely close to the creek.

“They’re also the ones who have been taking the paper towels out of the bathrooms and throwing soap in the creek,” explained Cordsiemon. Guinness added by saying, “The dangerous issue that was brought to my attention was there were some kids damming up the creek and using it to dive head first into the water and that is a tragedy waiting to happen.”

According to Elsberry Alderman Brent Rockwell, he’s all for curbing vandalism when it’s minor and small and believes this could be a huge step in making sure it’s stopped before it gets out of hand. He also added that the Park is already a staple and the city should be able to enforce ordinances that will protect it.

Having said that, Rockwell moved to have the ordinance read two times by title only and Elsberry Alderman Rusty Kinion seconded it. After it’s reading Alderman Steve Welch and Terri Harper made motions to adopt the new ordinance pertaining to parental responsibility. It passed unanimously.

However, there was still the matter of age restrictions.

“So if I just let me kids go down there to play, younger than eleven, would I be subject to a ticket then or a warning then or do they have to be caught doing something?” asked Rockwell.

According to Guinness, the child would not have to do anything wrong, they would just have to be there unsupervised. For example, if the children are under the care of a babysitter, he or she would have to accompany them to the park; same would be true if an agency, a friend or another adult was watching the child.

The next question asked was in regards to knowing if the child was older or younger than 11-years-old. Again Guinness stated that it would be up to the police officer to either already know or ask.

“And all of this can be changed to fit the city’s concerns,” explained Guinness. Bodley added, “We can also verify their age by their parents if need be.”

Pending a few changes as far as the age required to be considered a responsible party and a few other small details the board agreed to table the topic until next months meeting. This would give the city and Guinness time to write up an agreeable ordinance, best fitting the community.

The ordinance for “Parental Responsibility” reads as follows:

Whenever an unemanicipated minor shall be stopped or taken into custody for the commission of any criminal act or City ordinance violation within the City, the Police Department or City Clerk shall notify such minor’s parent or legal guardian of such fact and make the minor’s parent or legal guardian aware of his/her responsibility under this Section. The notice shall be in such a form as to be signed by the notified parent or legal guardian refuses to sign the notice, the notifying Police Officer or Clerk shall indicate such refusal on the notice.

Parental Neglect: It shall be an ordinance violation for any parent or legal guardian who fails to exercise customary and effective control over a minor so as to contribute to, cause, fail to prevent, or tend to cause a minor to commit any criminal act or ordinance violation.

Rebuttable Presumption: Written notice as provided in Subsection 1 of this Section shall be prima facie evidence and a rebuttable presumption of parental neglect as defined in Subsection 2 of this Section if the minor commits a second (2nd) or successive criminal act or violation of any City Ordinance.

Restitution: In addition to any penalty imposed for parental neglect as provided in Subsection 2 of this Section, the court may order the defendant to make restitution to any person or entity who has been damaged by the misconduct of the minor in an amount not to exceed two thousand dollars ($2,000.00). This provision shall not apply to a foster parent of such minor. Restitution shall only be ordered if the parent or legal guardian has been given written notice of possible restitution, and has also been afforded an opportunity to be heard by the judge of the Municipal Court concerning liability for the possible restitution. The liability provided in this Subsection shall not be bar to any action or proceeding against the unemanicipated minor or for damages not paid by parent or legal guardian.

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