A shiny new spike strip is how the city will welcome visiting vandals to the Exchange Street Parking Plaza.
"To get to the spike strips go through the exit," Public Works Director Denny McPhate explains.
McPhate had the spikes installed after repeatedly making repairs for graffiti and vandalism that appeared on walls and in elevators after hours.
"Honestly, the frequency of the vandalism is what prompted this," McPhate said. "We have people coming into the deck at night throwing beer bottles over the top, we have spray-painted graffiti on the walls, people scratching words into the paint in the elevator. We've had people knock the doors of the rails in the elevator and even kick the control panel damaging the entire elevator's operation."
Many of the incidents, McPhate said, have involved teenagers roaming through downtown without anything else to do. The damage -- often the result of horseplay or pranks.
"It's not total destructive type damages it just ends up costing us a lot of money and I don't think they realize the magnitude of the damage they're doing," he said. "But when the damage is more than $1,000 that can lead to a felony charge. I don't think they realize that."
The city is pursuing citations and charges against those responsible, needing to seek restitution for the thousands of dollars in damage that's draining city, and consequently, taxpayer funds.
"It's not funny. It's costing us money. It's costing their parents money, and it looks bad for our city. We don't need that here," Terra Smith said.
Smith parks at the plaza often, because she works at a bathhouse downtown. And the state of affairs in the parking deck, creates problems for her and her customers.
"Definitely the elevators are bad, there have been instances of people urinating in them and writing inside," she said. "There has been a lot of children that throw things, and there have been several times where the damage leaves the elevator unusable."
And for an area that relies on tourists, that's a bad thing.
"We tell our customers to come here and park here," she said, referring to the deck. "But there are those who have handicaps who can't make it up and down the stairs, so the elevator being out is inconvenient. And it looks bad on us and the city for sending them there."
In many cases, it appears to be teenagers committing so-called practical jokes, like super-gluing the buttons on the elevator system.
But over time and numerous incidents, the money's start to pile up for the public works department. That means money's being spent there -- instead of paving your streets.
"We could use that money in so many other places in the city," McPhate said. "Instead, we're having to throw it away on silly things like that."
In the past year alone, nearly $20,000 have been spent to clean up after mischief-makers. So, instead of just picking up the pieces, McPhate made a $1,500 investment, taking action to deter delinquents.
"We have to stop the bleeding, because we're spending so much money trying to prevent it," he said. "We don't have a secure way to control the entrance, so we're chaining that up. But the exit -- we can use the spikes to try and keep people from driving in after hours."
The city has also installed high-grade video cameras in the elevators to help identify some of the teens who have been responsible for the damage to that equipment.
A line item in the 2013 budget also calls for more money to update the entire video surveillance system for the deck.
According to McPhate, the reason they chose the spike strip for the exit is so those who have parked their vehicles there before the deck's official entry hours are over can still remove their vehicles from the building.