Chuck Gillingham took his dogs out for their daily walk and he decided to head up to Avery Middle School. As Gillingham and his canine companions reached the campus, he noticed an unsettling change to the sports field.
Tire tracks were all over the turf, as someone took their vehicle to the area and proceeded to do their best Bo and Luke Duke impression and tore the field up. Seeing the damage caused to the field angered Gillingham.
“Somebody needs to pay for this,” Gillingham said. “Be it arrested and prosecuted and make them do the restitution instead of the rest of us who use that school and the kids who use it. Somebody needs to get arrested. If they are juveniles, their parents need to take responsibility and fix that place.”
According to Avery Middle School principal Scott Nicotero, the vandalism occurred in the late evening of Jan. 2, which was a Saturday night. Nicotero said a report was made to the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office, but no arrest has yet to be made.
“I think we would definitely refer them to the police now that we have a report,” Nicotero said. “I don’t know that we’d be pressing charges. I don’t know how far it would go. That would be a district and superintendent decision. There is going to be a cost associated with fixing the field, so there could be some talk there. This is a pretty unique situation with some substantial damage to our field. I don’t know what direction the district would take it, but it would be nice to get those costs taken care of.”
While the cost to repair the field is currently unknown, the main damage is cosmetic. In some areas, tire tracks were deeper than others. And perhaps the only good news is that no sprinkler heads were broken and only one pipe will need to be replaced.
As for who committed the crime, Nicotero has heard rumors and speculations, but ultimately has no idea who was behind the wheel.
“It was somebody bored with nothing to do on a Saturday night,” Nicotero said. “Was it kids or adults? I don’t know. It’s definitely somebody who was out joyriding and messing around and not thinking about the repercussions and how it could affect not only the school and our access to it, but community members as well.”
When it comes to who is behind the vandalism, Gillingham doesn’t care. Not only does he want to see the guilty party brought to justice, he wants to see the field repaired. And Gillingham is willing to offer a $200 reward to whoever turns in the vandals.
“I’ll put my money where my mouth is, “Gillingham said. “I think if it came out that there was a reward system, and somebody gave some information, and it could be traced back to them (the person(s)) responsible. They need to at least be arrested and the DA should be able to take a look at it to decide to prosecute or not. Anyway, one way or another, they should be made responsible for what they did. I’m just disappointed that someone would do something like that.”
Nicotero knows there is a chance that the case will go unsolved, but he remains hopeful that won’t happen. And while he also wants some sort of justice, what Nicotero desires most of all is the field to be fixed and for nothing like this to happen again.
“The ideal outcome would be someone taking responsibility for it and helping with repairs,” Nicotero said. “If we could do that and not endure the cost; I mean, we are talking about taxpayer money. If that person was willing to come forward and help make things right, it would be a great situation for everybody.”
Anyone with any information could contact either the Vallecito Union School District, Avery Middle School, or the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department.