Officials fear missing signs could lead to tragedy

Published 5:00 am Monday, July 7, 2003

Lincoln County officials say road sign theft remains a costlyand potentially life-threatening problem.

Janice Haley, the county’s 911 coordinator, and SolidWaste-Litter Coordinator Ronnie Durr estimated that 10-15 roadsigns are stolen or vandalized during particularly bad weeks. Durris responsible for making new roads and getting them back inplace.

“It’s worse now that school is out,” Haley said of the signproblem.

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Supervisor Bobby J. Watts’ District 2 office houses Durr’ssign-making operation. Watts also expressed concerns about signproblems.

“That’s an everyday thing,” Watts said. “There’s some roads youdon’t have a problem with and some you do.”

Durr and Watts said sign thieves seem to be attracted toparticular names. They mentioned roads that have girls’ names orfamily names as particular targets, but no district is moresusceptible than any other.

“This is county wide. We all have sign trouble,” Watts said.

Officials said some signs had remained in place 15 years ormore.

“They have survived, and they’re in good shape,” Durr said.

Durr and Haley said it costs an estimated $20 to replace a roadsign only. The cost rises to around $30 for the sign and post if itis also removed.

In addressing the problem, Durr mentioned use of fiberglasssigns instead of aluminum. He said the fiberglass signs are not asdurable but are less expensive to replace.

In one particularly bad spot, Durr said he erected a steel sign.He said the sign is still in place, but those are more expensivethan the other sign materials.

“In has worked in that instance,” Durr said.

Durr said vandal-resistant screws are used in erecting all thesigns.

As 911 coordinator, Haley works with Durr to ensure the signsare in place. Her main concern is lives that could be put atincreased risk should an emergency service worker miss a turnbecause a road sign has been removed.

“That’s the real danger,” Haley said.

If anyone finds a road sign that has been removed, Haleyencouraged them to contact her. She said she would pick up the signor they could bring it to her.

“It is possible I can recycle them to a point,” Durr said. “Thatway, we can save some money.”

Watts said some signs had been returned to his district office.Those cases, though, are rare, he said.

“We’ll put it back up, but we don’t have that but two or threetimes a year,” Watts said.

As with illegal garbage dumping, catching a sign thief can bedifficult. However, Haley said the offense is punishable withthrough a destruction of county property charge, which carries apenalty of up to a $1,000 fine, up to one year in jail or both.

“It affects a lot of people,” Haley said about sign theft.”They’re put up for a reason and they need to stay up.”