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March 25, 2014

City taking more time to study ordinance covering graffiti

TERRE HAUTE — A proposed city ordinance to help erase graffiti was deemed not-quite-ready-for-prime-time Tuesday night by the City Council’s governmental affairs committee.

The ordinance is a good idea in principle but raises several practical concerns, members of the committee concluded in their 30-minute meeting in City Hall.

In its current form, the ordinance, proposed by the Terre Haute Police Department, would impose a fine of $25 on any property owner who fails to eliminate graffiti on his property within 30 days of receiving a notice from the city.

Members of the committee present at the meeting were each given a copy of the proposed letter to be used to inform property owners about a graffiti problem. The letter allows the property owner to sign a waiver that would allow the city or its volunteers to remove or paint over the graffiti. If the property owner does not allow the city to address the graffiti or remove it himself, the property owner will face a $25 fine, the letter states.

The letter, however, is not mentioned in the ordinance, pointed out Councilman Jim Chalos, D-at large, who is the committee chairman.

James Stolt, owner of Overhead Door Co. in Terre Haute, attended the committee meeting – one of just two members of the public to attend – and expressed concern about repeat “tagging” of property that might force a property owner to constantly face a potential fine.

Chalos, in response, recalled a time when his family received an $80 fine in another city for the “crime” of leaving a video game in plain view inside a locked vehicle. “Every since then, I’ve never been real big on punishing people for other people’s crimes,” he said.

Still, Chalos added, he believes the graffiti ordinance is “probably something that needs to be done;” but additional committee meetings are needed to iron out other concerns.

The meeting ended without a recommendation.

The Governmental Affairs Committee of the City Council will meet again on the subject at 5:15 p.m. April 10 in City Hall, just ahead of the April “sunshine” meeting.

 A full text of the proposed ordinance is available on the City of Terre Haute website at

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or


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