Officials plagued by sign thefts, vandalism

Published 8:00 pm Sunday, August 12, 2012

Lincoln County supervisors have all become accustomed to seeing vandalism in their districts over time, with some of the vandalism being worse than others.

     Supervisors see road and stop signs stolen and graffiti spraypainted on bridges and roads. They said replacing the signs and painting over graffiti costs taxpayers money that can go into the thousands of dollars a month.

     The most significant vandalism the supervisors have seen recently has taken place in Eddie Brown’s District Four.

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     According to Brown, two of the four solar-powered lights that flashed to warn motorists of the approaching four-way stop at the intersection of Zetus Road and Brookway Boulevard Extension have been shot out over the past few months. Brown said those signs were put up out of county funds and cost more than $5,000 a piece.

     “They’re shooting them out with what looks to be a .22 caliber gun,” he said. “It’s gone straight through the light casing itself.”

     Brown indicated this particular act of vandalism could have been more damaging due to the location of the signs and things around them.

     “The danger on Zetus Road is in one direction they’re shooting toward a house and in the other direction they’re shooting toward (Interstate 55),” he said.

     Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing said his office is looking into the vandalism on Zetus Road as well as missing road and stop signs elsewhere in the county.

     “We’re trying to keep our eyes on it for (Brown) and try to determine who did it,” said Rushing. “We’re tying to develop leads on who is responsible.”

     Vandalism is definitely a problem that can affect everyone, said Rushing.

     “Vandalism throughout the county comes in groups,” he said. “Sometimes you have a lot of problems with mailboxes and sometimes it’s street signs. We try to pursue all of it, because a lack of stop signs or street signs is a danger, especially if you’re looking for an address in an emergency.”

     When street signs are stolen, Lincoln County Litter Control Coordinator Ronnie Durr replaces them. When stop signs are stolen, the supervisors replace them.

     Durr said he’s been busy replacing signs so far in August, and may get even busier if past trends continue.

     “Since the first of the month I’ve replaced 15 signs, but it’ll vary from month to month,” he said. “Sometimes when school gets back in, we’ll have a rash of signs going down. Then around the holiday season it comes back and during the summer it’s almost constant.”

     Durr said to replace a street sign, not including the post, which usually is not stolen, costs around $40 in total.

     “A blank sign cots about $8, then you go and put letters on it and you’re probably got $15 in just the sign itself,” he said. “Then you add labor and fuel costs to install the sign. The going rate I was told is about $40 a sign from the time it was reported missing to the time it goes back up.”

     Stop signs are even more expensive, especially now that the supervisors are required to replace old stop signs with newer signs, according to District Three Supervisor Nolan Earl Williamson.

     “These new density stop signs are around 30 inches wide and cost around $85 per sign,” he said. “When we go to get new signs, we have to use the new ones that have a higher reflection.”

     Williamson said the post costs about $37, plus bolts and time.

     “It’s over $100 per stop sign,” he said.

     District Five Supervisor Dudley Nations agreed vandalism occurs quite often and complimented Durr on his work.

     “There’s clearly been vandalism over time because we’re replacing some signs as of now,” he said. “We’re doing some painting on concrete bridges to cover up things that have been painted on over time.”

     In District Two, Supervisor Jimmy Diamond said it’s around this time of year when signs go missing.

     “I expect in the next week or two they’ll hit us again since school has started, but I hope I’m wrong,” he said. “It seems like they hit and then wait a while and then come back. We have a lot of signs go missing around Lake Lincoln, but it happens in other places too.”

     Williamson said he thinks preventing such vandalism begins in the home.

     “Many parents don’t discipline their kids like they used to,” he said. “They (the parents) think stealing a sign is funny. You’ve got to educate the public about the seriousness of it.”