The newly-painted yellow caboose in Renfrew was vandalised with graffiti on Monday night. The caboose had been painted with donations and through volunteer efforts and the vandalism has left the volunteer committee disheartened. submitted

Renfrew – Seeing ugly graffiti painted on the bright yellow newly-painted caboose on Tuesday morning was incredibly heart-breaking for the volunteer committee working to restore the iconic town landmark and they want to see someone held accountable for the damage. 

“We just had two coats of yellow paint on there and it was just fresh and then someone comes along with a spray can,” said committee member Dave Lemkay. “This is so disheartening. The sad part is we struggled so much as a committee to restore the caboose.”

The caboose, which has stood as a symbol of Renfrew and the railroad heritage in the area, has been in a sorry state of disrepair for many years. In fact, things were so bad the previous council was going to scrap the caboose. However, a group of citizens formed to save the caboose and fundraised to see it restored. It hasn’t been an easy job. 

Because of the lead paint on the caboose, it required the services of a company which specialized in removing that paint to come in. This was completed and in the last few weeks a local company donated the time to get the rail car primed and painted with two coats of bright yellow paint. 

“Dave Bennett, with his company Marshalls, was doing this painting as a community volunteer on his own nickel,” Mr. Lemkay said. “We had just seen the two coats of yellow paint go on.

“The committee wanted to restore this on behalf of the townspeople of Renfrew and had asked for donations in the community, so this was part of the donations,” he said. “The most distressing part is when we finally had two coats of nice paint, someone has ruined that.”

This is not anything like art, Mr. Lemkay stressed, but vandalism. In fact, the markings are crude and simple along one side of the caboose. 

“It would not take too long to do that and it doesn’t make any sense what they have done,” he said. “It is really sad it has hit this. It is too bad to see this graffiti anywhere, but it is really sad here.”

The damage was done on the back side of the caboose where there is less visibility. Mr. Lemkay said there may be a need for security cameras now in this area.

For Mr. Bennett, who is also the mayor of nearby Horton Township, the involvement of his company, Marshalls, which does millwright work, welding and has a painting team, was a natural fit. He did not receive payment, or the company payment, for the painting. The committee supplied the paint and he supplied the labour. Having this volunteer effort defaced this way was very discouraging for him as well. 

“It really shines a different light when you get up in the morning and this is done,” he said. 

The two men were on site at the caboose assessing the damage and both were very discouraged by the vandalism. 

“We are trying to build the town up and make it nice looking,” Mr. Bennett said. “Volunteers did all this work to make it nice looking. We wanted it to look like a new piece of equipment.”

He estimates the damage is about $18,000 in time because everything will have to be primed again and re-painted on that side. 

“It is about $22,000 when you add in the product,” he said. “We can only hope whoever did this comes forward and says they can help us repair this.”

The caboose was really starting to take shape and now it will take more time again for the repairs, he said. Those repairs won’t happen overnight either. It also isn’t as simple as painting over the graffiti.

“The yellow paint is four working days old,” he said. “So, we have to give it the drying time and then we will remove it, cover it with primer and paint it again.”

This is a big project and one which is more complicated because it is all outside. Mr. Bennett said they can only paint in certain weather conditions, so it is a job which takes a lot of time. If the painting could be done inside it would be finished rather quickly, but dealing with weather conditions takes time and it is also taking away his staff from other work.

“And it was 90 percent finished,” he said. “Now it is about 25 percent finished.”

Vandalism like this is hurting Renfrew, he stressed. 

“I hope at the end of the day someone comes forward and admits to it,” he said. 

Ongoing Vandalism

Renfrew Mayor Tom Sidney did not mince words in voicing his disgust at the vandalism in a post on social media, noting people were not only upset about the vandalism, but also angry. 

“We are trying to work hard here to make Renfrew better,” he said, adding they want to attract business, residents and tourism. 

People donated money for this project at a time when not a lot of people have extra money, he pointed out. As well, taxpayer dollars are going to this and town time, he said. 

“Report it if you know who is doing it. If you know who is doing it, you are part of the problem too,” he said. 

The vandals also hit a car wash in town and a spot near Central School, he told the Leader

“This has been a problem in the last four months,” he said. 

It appears there are one or two individuals doing the vandalism and the police are investigating, he said. 

Mayor Sidney said he hopes anyone with information goes to the police. Vandalism like this needs to stop, he said.
“We want our community to be beautiful and welcoming,” he said. 

Having something defaced which was intended to make Renfrew more attractive is very discouraging, he noted. 

“The biggest frustration is people donated money to this and the town put money toward it too,” he said. 

Mayor Sidney, who is in his first term as mayor, said he wants the community to come together to make Renfrew a better place to live. 

“This has got to stop,” he said. “Every time we turn around something new is happening to deface our community. This is your community. If this is what you want your town to look like, then we just keep doing what we are doing and not do anything. Or band together. Work together and let’s try to fix it.”

By Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 26, 2023 at 06:12

This item reprinted with permission from   The Eganville Leader   Eganville, Ontario
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