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Wednesday, 11 June 2014 13:13

Sylva mother questions park ban

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After her teenage daughter was banned from Poteet Park for a year, a Sylva mother sought an audience with the town’s commissioners. 

“Everywhere I try to address my concerns, I’m ignored,” Deborah Woolverton told Sylva commissioners during a recent board meeting. 

The woman relayed how her daughter had been accused of either trespassing, littering or damaging property, but was innocent of those acts. She had already had this conversation with Public Works Director Dan Schaeffer.

“He told me I could believe my daughter if I saw fit, but it was his job to believe his employee,” Woolverton said.

Recently, Schaeffer alerted the board to the continued vandalism of town parks. He suggested banning teenagers from the parks, but commissioners decided instead to purchase more cameras for three different parks — at a cost of more than $13,000.

Schaffer also told the board that there were “only a certain few causing trouble.” Woolverton told the board that she was sure her daughter was not among those causing trouble at the park, that she would not vandalize city property.

“I would’ve taken her butt down there and made her clean it up,” Woolverton told commissioners. 

The mother read some of her comments from a five-page, single-spaced, typed statement. It laid out the chain of events, her experiences dealing with the town thus far and her feelings about the overall issue. 

When the woman finished, commissioners looked to Schaffer for a response.

“I don’t know anything about anything else,” he told them. “All I was told was that she was littering and she wouldn’t pick it up.”

Sylva Police Chief Davis Woodard was also unable to add much to the discussion.

“I know very little about it,” he told the board. “I’ve tried to stay out of it.”

The teen’s mother proceeded to tell the board that she sympathized with their efforts to protect town parks from vandals. Woolverton agreed there were problem elements present in the parks — people “all doped up” and sometimes with weapons — and said she was concerned for her daughter’s safety. 

“I gave her a small pocket knife to keep her safe,” Woolverton said. “I mean, I’m a mother hen.”

After hearing the woman’s concerns, commissioners were inclined to take another look at her banishment from the park. 

“I think it all needs to be reviewed, myself, before we make a conclusion, because you sound like a good momma,” said Commissioner Harold Hensley. 

Sylva Mayor Maurice Moody ultimately directed Schaeffer, Woodard and Town Manager Paige Roberson to “investigate” and “just handle the situation.” 

The next week, Roberson reported that the teen’s ban had been reduced to one month. Her actions at the park, however, remain unclear.

“There was video, but the cameras weren’t zoomed in far enough,” Roberson said, adding that she had to “take the word of my employees, of course,” but also felt the girl’s reduced punishment was a “good idea.”

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