According to Monett Police Chief Tim Schweder, the theft of approximately 2,000 feet of heavy duty 10-gauge six-strand electrical cable was discovered on the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 13. The theft took place sometime after the close of work on Friday, Nov. 9.
The cable was cut from the power boxes and the ornaments, Schweder said. Displays across the main field of the park, from the tennis courts to the Kiddie Playground, were hit. Value of the cable was estimated at more than $5,200.
Utilities Superintendent Pete Rauch said the thieves probably stole the wire for scrap metal, mostly for the copper. The scrap value was a small fraction of the $2.61 per foot that the wire cost to replace.
The Festival of Lights, viewed by more than 12,000 people during a season, was scheduled to open on Monday. Electric department foreman Aaron Burdett said it will be difficult to have the displays ready to go by Thanksgiving night.
"It's not just the taking of the wire," Burdett said. "The cords were cut off the decorations. If it's a multi-circuit display, we don't know which wires went where so it works correctly. It will take time to put them back together."
Burdett said the theft was particularly discouraging to his crew. Electric department staff have been very busy over the past month installing lights at the North Park and setting up the Festival of Lights ahead of schedule.
"You could just see everything drain out of their faces," Burdett said about reporting the news to his crews. "We were probably two or two and a half weeks ahead of schedule. Now we're a week to 10 days behind schedule."
When city crews set up the Festival of Lights for the first time, most of the wire used was purchased. Three years ago, another reel was purchased, and all of it was used this year. Burdett said more could be ordered, but for now the crew would use what they could get from Gliedt Electric to start reconstruction.
The different displays used varying lengths of electric cord and could have up to four circuits in them. Burdett said he would have up to seven men working all week to get the displays ready. He expected to know by the end of this work week whether he would need weekend overtime to get the job done.
"My guys don't work for free," Burdett said. "This places a financial burden on the city, but we won't let the community down."
Additional security measures are being discussed. Monett Police have increased patrols. The park gate is now being locked in the evening.
Anyone with information about the thefts or suspicious activity in the park over the weekend is asked to call the Crime Stoppers hotline number at 354-8477.