Soapy fountain prank costs city time & money

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The city of Eau Claire woke up Tuesday morning to a Wilson Park full of suds. The parks department said someone had put soap into the Hobbs Fountain overnight.

While it may be fun for kids to play in and passerby's to see, there's a price tag attached to the soapy prank.

"It's been known to happen, this is the first of the year. But probably laundry detergent and it can create quite a display of a big bubble bath," said Eau Claire Parks superintendent Todd Chwala. He said it's a mess that started mountain-high in the fountain and then blew across into the park and streets.

Chwala said the cost of vandalism is in the tens of thousands of dollars for the parks department.

"We'll have to clean the whole fountain out, wash the filters, rinse, wash, repeat," said Chwala.

The process takes hours, time that was meant to be dedicated to playground safety inspections by one of the parks employees.

"He's being taken away from a very important detail of his job and something that's very important to us," said Chwala.

Charleen Maready and her great niece Isabelle say Wilson Park is one of their favorite spots.

It's ridiculous that somebody would actually put washing powder in the fountain, it takes time. I noticed when we were passing the fountains because she likes to play in the fountain," said Maready.

Chwala said there are many different types of vandalism that the department has to deal with throughout the year and especially the summer.

"In the public sector, certainly in the parks and recreation industry, vandalism is a fact of life. We deal with it, we try to minimize it, we design our system to best of our ability," said Chwala. "It happens fast and it's costly."

He said crews will find property damage such as broken windows, bathroom fixtures destroyed, boulevard trees that are vandalized, broken windows and graffiti. He said it all disrupts the normal workflow of the day.

Maready said it's unfair that vandals would take time to destroy property.

"It takes a lot of money out of the taxpayers to redo the fountain and everything and I hope they catch the guy or person or whoever did it," she said.

Chwala said if anyone witnesses mischievous behavior at a park, notify the parks department or call the Eau Claire Police Department.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Hobbs Fountain is back in working order without the suds.

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