Vandalism at Perth park disappoints state’s longest serving official

PERTH, N.Y. (NEWS10) – An 86-year-old town leader is taking on teenagers after a Fulton County park was vandalized.

Police are looking for vandals who caused about $400 worth of damage at Perth Youth Commission Park. As a result, a sign has been posted that warns of 24-hour video monitoring, and it has the man who’s watched over the park for around 50 years very disappointed.

As the longest serving elected official in New York State, Walter Kowalczyk must be doing something right.

“We’re here for the people,” he said. “All this property belongs to taxpayers, and we’re here to look after it.”

Kowalczyk has been on the Perth Town Board for about 50 years, and under his watchful eye, the town park has grown and improved.

“I just love this area, you know,” he said. “This is like home. I come down here pretty near every day.”

But last week, the 86-year-old learned vandals caused some damage to the park. The graffiti has been washed away and the damaged playground equipment has been removed, but for Kowalczyk, the sting of betrayal remains.

“Because we do everything for them,” he said.

A few days before the vandalism, Kowalczyk caught a couple teenagers moving cinder blocks and a concrete curb onto the basketball court to make skateboard jumps. Vittorio Barnett said he was one of them. He said he wasn’t sorry for his actions.

“No, I’m cool with it,” he told NEWS10 ABC. “It was worth it.”

The 16-year-old said he and his friends weren’t responsible for the real damage done to the park, but he admitted he broke the rules. He also had a worrying piece of advice for the vandals the authorities are looking for.

“Don’t get caught,” he said. “Try not to get caught.”

Those words fly in the face of everything the grandfather of six said the park stands for.

“You gotta put money into your house; you gotta look after it,” Kowalczyk said. “We gotta do the same thing here because this belongs to everybody in town.”

Kowalczyk said he will continue to serve Perth for as long as he can.

“I tell my kids, ‘Maybe I’ll give it up,’” he said. “And my son says, ‘What are you going to do? Just lay around all day? You love it down there.’”

Kowalczyk said a skateboard park is probably not in the budget this year, but he encourages young people who want the town to make a change to come to the town board meeting instead of taking things into their own hands.

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