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Stolen equipment irreplaceable for Main Street

By Terri Richardson
Feb. 8, 2011 at 6:19 p.m.

BROKEN WINDOWS ON the side the Old SWEPCO building, used for storing equipment and other items for Main Street and Wonderland of Lights, can be seen. The building was broken into recently and more than $50,000 of equipment was stolen.

More than $50,000 in city equipment was discovered missing Tuesday from the old SWEPCO building, owned and used by the city as storage for Wonderland of Lights and Main Street.

"Main Street facilitates concerts at the SWEPCO building, and made that turnkey so people could show up with instruments and have all the equipment there," said Main Street Director Bo Ellis.

Among items taken were the mixing boards, amplifiers, stage monitors, microphones, mic stands and all the cables and connections. Other items taken included parts of the Main Street outdoor movie equipment and connecting wires for large Wonderland of Lights displays, Ellis said.

Ellis estimated the value of just the Main Street equipment at more than $50,000, items that were not afforded through the city budget but collected over 10 years by Ellis from volunteers offering donations to Main Street.

"This was me finding people who wanted to make purchases over 10 years. It's not something we can replace," Ellis said.

The Marshall Police Department is investigating the theft.

Public Information Officer Sonya Johnson said the department was not prepared to make a statement Tuesday and it was still unknown when the items were taken.

"We're still trying to figure out when was the last time someone was inside the building," she said.

The building was secured with locks but did not have alarms installed, said City Manager Frank Johnson.

"We don't know yet how much we could get from insurance," said Johnson. "The insurance company will conduct its investigation, and we'll hear from them. We hope the police will have success in pursuing this."

Johnson added that the theft will impact more than just the city and included those who borrowed the equipment to "people who enjoy Wonderland of Lights" among victims and that it was "a very selfish act on the part of the people who did it."

Ellis named several local musicians and their bands among those who used the equipment and said Main Street made it available upon request.

"We also had an additional set of equipment used in the downtown core for events, and that equipment was stored in the SWEPCO building as well," said Ellis, who added that this equipment was used in the production of Second Saturday car shows and events.

Part of the city's outdoor movie equipment was also stolen, Ellis said.

"We made that equipment available to Harrison County organizations and it was recently used by Hallsville schools, Relay for Life and it gets taken to the Percy Johnson burn camp," said Ellis.

Custom wiring stolen from the building was stored for the season and used to power the over-sized light displays for Wonderland of Lights. Ellis suggested that the cables and wires were taken for their copper value.

"Clarence Madewell put in many hours of volunteer work to build those connectors," said Ellis. "You couldn't just go down to the store and purchase what they took."

Each of the power connectors was labeled and had been put away for the season, but they had taken Madewell years to make with "monumental effort." The cost of the wires alone was estimated to be in the thousands, but the value of the labor in putting them all together for the large displays was extraordinarily high.

"There is no way to estimate the man-hours to recreate that stuff," said Ellis.

As of Monday, Ellis was making arrangements for the Harrison County In A Book project to use the screen for an event, a component of the Big Read.

"The theft of the sound equipment and movie equipment affects a lot of people and organizations," said Ellis. "It was one of our assets to offer that equipment for free to be used, and we do not have the means to replace it."

The stolen equipment was also an economic boon to local musicians and was borrowed by others in emergencies to make sure a show could go on.

"It had a big economic impact for us to provide these types of services at no charge to those who needed it," said Ellis. "Pieces of this equipment were used on a weekly basis; it was not just being stored. It was being used."



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