Pleasanton Officer Charles Stokes, sworn into the Parker Police Department temporarily, works with a long line of trucks and trailers that arrived in Parker Saturday morning to take advantage of being able to sell their scrap for $60 a ton over the normal rate. (Photos by Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)
PARKER – Trucks and trailers loaded with old cars, farm machinery, pipe and assorted metal jammed the streets of the small town of Parker on Saturday, June 10. The drivers of those vehicles were seeking one thing: A local businessman was paying $200 per ton on scrap metal that was headed to the shredding machine.
A sign attached to a truck parked along Center Street, one of Parker’s thoroughfares, touted the price, which was $60 a ton more than the regular price of $140 a ton displayed on another one of the company’s signs not more than 40 feet away.
Recycling Services, a metal salvage yard in Parker, began on June 3 advertising the “sale” to its “loyal customers” on Facebook, saying that the higher price would be paid out to anyone bringing in scrap metal from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 10 only.
As it happens, though, the First Baptist Church next door was also holding a 50-year anniversary of the establishment of that church from about 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday as well.
With Parker’s police chief and officer on duty with the Linn County Sheriff’s Office during that time period, Pleasanton Police Chief Tristan Snyder and Officer Charles Stokes volunteered to come to Parker to keep order.
A sign hung from a truck bed (above) advertised the special price of $200 per ton for scrap compared to the regular sign (below) offering $60 less per ton. Recycling Services owner Dan Gaikowski has used banners to try to sway public opinion in his dispute with the city of Parker. The sign suggesting that Police Chief Craig Haley wants Gaikowski dead has been hanging on Center Street for several months.
In the last block leading up to the company's gate, that included directing drivers of the line of trucks to use the left side of the street instead of the right side when they lined up to unload. That left the normal right driving lane open for people, many of whom came from out of town, to get to the church.
Many of the people who brought scrap to Parker on Saturday were not aware of the ongoing feud between the city and Recycling Services, according to officers.
Church members believe the customer appreciation event was intentionally set up to make it difficult for people to reach the church.
In a text message, church member Mike Page said that in a court hearing to lift an injunction on June 2, Recycling Services owner Dan Gaikowski said that he was not going to interfere with the church’s anniversary event. However the next day, a sign went up on Center Street announcing higher prices for scrap on the same day as the church’s anniversary celebration.
That same day, the company’s Facebook page posted the announcement of the higher price for scrap.
“He has put up concrete barriers, anti-Christian signs, stopped patrons and installed Viet Cong-style traps in the church access,” Page said in his text. “So yes, he did it to disrupt church.”
In an interview on Wednesday, June 14, Gaikowski denied trying to disrupt the church’s event. He said that his customer appreciation event had been planned before he knew of the church’s celebration.
He said that while he was trying to show his loyal customers appreciation for their business, he did not anticipate the overwhelming response to his promotion.
Despite the traffic problem early in the morning on Saturday, however, Page said the anniversary event for the church was “greatly successful.” He credited the police for organizing the vehicles headed to the salvage yard in a way that didn’t block access to the church.
Signs deemed by some members of the First Baptist Church as "anti-Christian" are positioned on salvage yard property near the entrance to the church grounds.
Gaikowski also credited the officers with keeping traffic into the salvage yard running smoothly. He said that his promotion was also successful in showing his customers how much they were appreciated.
At the Parker City Council meeting on Thursday, June 8, Mike Page told council members that they had concerns about the operation of Recycling Services on the day of the church dinner.
Referring to a recent incident where nails were found in the street leading up to the church, and hinting that they were tossed onto the road intentionally, Page said, “I think it’s just a huge opportunity for something like that to happen.”
Page also asked if there was a way to enforce the prohibition against Gaikowski posting what he called anti-Christian signs on the street to the church. He said he understood that a recent injunction prohibited displaying those signs.
However, Police Chief Craig Haley said that temporary injunction was no longer in effect and nothing could be done about the signs.
Mayor Ashley Balthazor told Page that no matter how people felt about the signs, they were protected speech under the First Amendment.
Knowing that he and his fellow officer had conflicts that day, Police Chief Craig Haley strongly suggested that church officials contact the sheriff’s office to see about finding some off-duty officers to handle security on Saturday.
Preston Harrison, pastor of the church, told the council it was important that the road to the church be clear. He said there would be people who were in their nineties attending and he wanted to make sure an ambulance could get through if it had to.
He said that he felt that the church was being dragged into the dispute between Gaikowski and the city, and that the salvage yard owner was using the church as leverage against the city.
“I don’t understand that,” Harrison said. “We don’t hinder his business, but he wants to hinder ours.”
Haley said that if there is a problem with the roads being blocked, someone should call the county dispatcher immediately. If dispatch is contacted, they will send someone out immediately to clear the streets.
On Saturday, Pleasanton Police Chief Snyder, who along with his officer had been sworn in to the Parker Police Department for the day, said they had been contacted about volunteering for Parker on Friday.
Page confirmed that the church contacted the Pleasanton Police Department on Friday after the sheriff’s office was not able to supply any officers.
As soon as Snyder and Stokes arrived, they began routing traffic in an orderly fashion, and by the time people began arriving for the church event, the two officers had salvage yard traffic lined up so that the streets to the church were not blocked.
At Parker’s council meeting, city attorney Geri Hartley said she would check on the status of the injunction. She asked if there would be anyone from the church monitoring the situation.
Harrison said he would be monitoring, but she suggested that because he would be considered biased, a neutral third party should be monitoring.
Page renewed his claim that Recycling Services pays less than $300 annually in taxes to the city, and yet city residents have to deal with smoke from burning and noise from the machinery. He also claimed that the business did not properly capture freon from discarded refrigeration devices and that oil and anti-freeze from vehicles was routinely dumped on the ground.
“My request this evening is that this place needs to be closed,” Page said.
In the past Gaikowski has said his company's requirements are for all fluids to be drained out of vehicles that are to be scrapped. There is a large sign to that effect on Baptist Avenue.
Haley said that the Kansas Attorney General’s office oversees scrap yards and their licensing. He said he filed a complaint with that office several months ago, however, he has received no updates about the status of those complaints.
Page also renewed his plea that he needed access to his property through Walnut Street. A one-block portion of that street has been closed off by Gaikowski, who claims there is no proof that the city ever paid any of the former owners of the property for that street
The city is in the midst of an action to condemn the property and reopen the street. Last month, the council hired a Wichita-based law firm to represent their interests in the case.
“Hopefully, the legal team will have an answer soon,” said Councilman Jason Webber.