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Council Bluffs park hit by repeat bubble vandals

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 6:25 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Council Bluff’s Bayliss Park is a centerpiece of the downtown area, with a towering fountain, big shade trees, and a splash pad for hot summer days.

But twice in the last few weeks, the fountain and water features have had to be turned off thanks to residents dumping soap in the fountain, creating huge mounds of bubbles.

“It’s pure and simple vandalism, I don’t know that the participants see it that way but that’s exactly what it is, I mean, throwing eggs at a house may be fun but it’s vandalism, throwing soap in the fountain may be fun but it’s vandalism,” says Matt Walsh, Mayor of Council Bluffs.

“I feel bad for the city because that’s a lot of cleanup they have to deal with, and I’m bummed for my kids and they would enjoy to play in that fountain and they can’t because somebody did that,” says Brianne Niedermyer, who was enjoying a picnic with her husband and three kids on Monday morning. “I get that it seems like a fun and somewhat harmless activity for them to do, but it takes away from everybody else for their five minutes of fun.”

The city says it is much more than a harmless prank. The bubbles can be damaging to the piping inside the fountain, and that it wastes time and money for city workers who could be focused on other responsibilities.

“What happens is when that soap suds and lubricant in the soap suds get inside the inner works of the fountain, it starts to erode the rust and the lime buildup that’s inside of the fountains works,” Mayor Walsh says.

That rust and lime buildup then starts to clog the fountain drains, spouts, and filters.

“We shut the fountain all the way down, go in, clean the filter, start it up, let loosened particles re-emerge, shut it down, clean the filter,” he says. “It happened earlier this year so we estimate it’s about $2500 of taxpayer money to clean it.”

Walsh says it takes a lot of man-hours to get the fountain running smoothly again.

Parks and Recreation workers spent Monday afternoon turning it on and off to ensure there were no clogs, so the rest of the community can again enjoy the beauty and mist it provides on hot summer days.

“You know, find something else that you can do with your time that’s a little bit more productive that maybe helps our community parks instead of hurts them,” Niedermyer says.

Mayor Walsh says video cameras from nearby businesses may have captured the vandalism, and they’re hoping to find those responsible and hold them accountable.

In 2018, a Council Bluffs man was sentenced for criminal mischief after dumping car wash bubbles into the Bayliss fountain. He was ordered to pay around $1200 to the city to cover the costs of cleanup and repairs.

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