Community Responds To Library Vandalism

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Ashley Allen's bench is back in its customary place in front of the Payson Public Library, and a second bench built by a high school student has been presented to the library.

The original stone-cut bench, a memorial to a little girl who died of cancer two years ago, was smashed by vandals sometime over the weekend of May 3-4. The vandals also damaged the library itself, but it was the destruction of the bench that outraged Library Director Terry Morris and, apparently, many Payson residents.

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Payson High School sophomore Amanda Palandri read about the recent act of vandalism at the Payson Public Library and made a wooden bench to replace one the vandals destroyed. Accepting the bench is Margaret Jesus, assistant library director.

"There has been a huge outpouring," Morris said. "People are just horrified that anyone would desecrate a memorial."

Shane Owens, owner of Tree Pro, offered to repair the bench.

"He replaced the flagstone and local artist Robert Barella recarved the hummingbirds and stuff onto the stone," Morris said.

Owens also reinforced the bench so it won't be as susceptible to damage.

"The bottom part of the bench is a metal frame, and he beefed up the frame so you can't just throw rocks through it," Morris said. "He's also going to take the plaque off and carve down the flagstone so it sets flush."

A second bench, this one made of wood, was built and donated to the library by Payson High School sophomore Amanda Palandri. She started the project in her woods class at PHS and finished it at home in just three days.

"She's very sensitive and she saw the story in the paper," her mother, Rose Palandri, said. "She's always been good at detail, but I've never seen her do anything like this. She was determined."

Ashley Allen's name, a hummingbird and a flower are carved into the bench Palandri built. Her biggest concern was that word leaked out before she had a chance to present the bench to Assistant Library Director Margaret Jesus.

"It was supposed to be a secret," Palandri said.

Morris has placed Palandri's bench in the children's area of the library.

"We put it there for the very simple reason that I didn't think it would hold up outside, and that it would be too great of a temptation for somebody to pick up and run off with," she said.

Morris has also received several cash donations since the Roundup's account of the incident appeared May 6.

Paws in the Park donated money and so did (Chamber of Commerce Executive Director) Bob Ware," she said. "I had already ordered a replacement bench, and in talking to them we're going to use that money to help offset costs for another bench out there."

Police still don't have any solid leads despite a $400 reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible. Morris believes the culprits had to be children.

"I would hate to think it was an adult," she said.

But now there will be three benches where before there was one, and for that Morris is grateful.

"It shows once again that the Payson community is a good place to live, because when things like this happen there is always such an outpouring of support."

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