By HEATHER ROBERTS
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
While statues representing slave owners and other controversial figures are torn down across the country, the Metolius City Council plans to move forward with plans to install a controversial model train.
The train’s creator, former Jefferson County resident Richard Pickett, is currently serving time for child sex abuse and child pornography.
“This train was built on my property, growing up as a child, and it was used to kind of trick adults, you know – creating an illusion for him to spend one-on-one time with me, to groom me, essentially, and abuse me,” said Cassandra Ruwaldt.
Ruwaldt’s family moved in with Pickett when she was just seven.
In 2009, after more than a decade of abuse, he was convicted on dozens of counts.
Ruwaldt tried to put the abuse, and the train, behind her for 11 years.
Until February of this year.
“Driving home, decided to take the scenic route – you know, Old Culver Highway – and about fell out of my seat in the car, when I saw it on display in front of City Hall,” she said.
Metolius Mayor Carl Elliott says the city bought the model off Craigslist last year, with no knowledge of its illicit past.
Ruwaldt attended a City Council meeting in March, to explain.
“The Mayor actually did tell me that it’s not the exact same train, since he restored it and replaced some of the boards,” she said. “So, I shouldn’t look at it the same anymore.”
Elliott says they moved the display after that meeting, but because the city had spent $3,000 on the purchase and refurbishing of the train, there was a concern over how to recoop those tax dollars. “I have no problem starting a fundraiser to get a new something out there to display,” says Ruwaldt, “But I don’t think it was about the money, because they were offered money through Friends of the Metolius business association and they turned it down.”
The Mayor says they asked for citizen feedback and the responses they received were generally in favor of keeping the display.
“There’s tons of people who don’t want that here, and who are more than willing to donate if that is what it is really about,” she said.
She received a letter this month stating Council has decided to keep the train and move it back to its prominent location in front of City Hall.