City will cover Reagan statue repair costs

Ronald Reagan may have said that "government is the problem," but for a recently damaged statue of his likeness in Bonita Canyon Sports Park, it appears to be part of the solution.

Newport Beach city officials plan to use public funds to repair the bronze statue and provide for its ongoing security.

Because the artwork was donated to the city, administrators are responsible for its maintenance, city spokeswoman Tara Finnigan said.

After an unknown suspect pulled the life-size statue partially off its base earlier this month, some in the community have called for the donors or certain City Council members to pay for its repairs, and to move the artwork to private property.

But the city plans to reinstall it in Bonita Canyon Sports Park, according to Recreation and Senior Services Director Laura Detweiler.

Instead of moving it to a more visible location, they are looking to install security measures — perhaps a surveillance camera and lighting.

"It looks great [in Bonita Canyon Sports Park], and we want to return it to its original place, once he's all fixed up," Detweiler said.

Some would be happy if the statue never returned to the park. Detractors found its approval and installation highly political.

"I just think it's going to be exposed to more vandalism, and the city will likely have to do more and more," said Our Lady Queen of Angels Church Msgr. Wilbur Davis, who believes Reagan is too divisive a figure to be honored on city grounds.

But its location could change, Finnigan said, depending on what repairs are necessary.

The statue's sculptor, Balboa Island resident Miriam Baker, is working with a Santa Ana foundry to repair the base, which was bent when someone looped a rope around the bronze body and pulled on it with a pickup truck.

"It was installed in a way that couldn't be toppled over," said Baker.

Steel rods ran through the body and into a granite pedestal, so when the truck pulled, it didn't do much damage besides bending the decorative bronze base. It will have to be pounded back into shape.

"The repairs aren't going to be too difficult," Baker said.

The foundry still has to make an estimate for the repairs, Baker said. Her original commission was $50,000, and half of that went to the cost of materials and to the original foundry work.

The city's insurance policy should cover the costs, Finnigan said.

Last week, some council members offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect. Det. Pete Carpentieri said Wednesday that Newport Beach police had nothing new to report on the case.

Twitter: @mreicher

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