Stidham crowned Miss Camellia July 22

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 26, 2000

Butler County Engineer Dennis McCall looks at a pile of damaged signs recovered from the roads of Butler County.

He said the department loses about 20-30 signs per year to theft and vandalism. In the past few months, however, about 20 road marker signs set up to identify the new street names established by the E-911 board have come up either missing or damaged.

Photo by Derek Brown

County officials are hoping the watchful eye of the community can help put an end to some activity that is costing every taxpayer money.

Butler County E-911 is trying to wrap up the mapping and re-addressing of the county necessary to fully implement the 911 system. And, while the office has met with delays, vandals and thieves are now hindering the projects progress futher.

E-911 Director Janice Stamps said more than 20 street marker signs have been stolen in the last few months, and a number of others have been reported damaged. She said each one of these signs costs the department money, tax payer's money, that it doesn't have to spend.

"We have spent $22,000 for signs alone this year," she said. "That is a significant investment and we do not want to have to reinvest."

While the signs are worthless to someone stealing them, they do have a real value attatched to them.

Each sign costs the county $40, and there are two signs attatched to a pole that costs $14. The pole is then finished with a cap that costs about $3, making the per-sign total $97.

The dollar value aside, Stamps said the signs also have a value intrensic to the E-911 system, a value important to everyone, and it is important they remain in place to ensure the safety of the surrounding residents.

"The real importance of these signs is to help identify the new street names to law enforcement, fire and EMS personnel," Stamps said. "The new system has greatly improved response times in emergency calls, and it is important that streets be identifiable."

County Engineer Dennis McCall said the county loses about 20 to 30 road signs per year to accidental damage, vandalism and theft, and the expense can add up. He said the $97 value of a road marker sign is coupled with $80 in labor charges bringing the total replacement value of that sign to almost $180.

McCall said the removal of road signs, for any reason, is not only illegal, but is also unsafe. A number of stop and other traffic signs have also been stolen or damaged, which can lead to accidents.

"If a traffic sign is stolen and no one notices, it is just an accident waiting to happen," he said. "If it is missing long enough it will eventually cause a serious accident."

"We need some way to get it across to the people doing this that it is very serious to steal or damage road signs," he continued. "The directional road marker signs are important because they help the emergency response personnel locate a house."

Butler County Sheriff Dianne Harris said the penalties for such behavior can be stiff, and that people caught with any type of road sign in their possession can be charged with a crime.

She said the vandalism of a road sign is considered criminal mischief, which carries with it a stiff fine and forced restitution of the property damaged, and the act can also be prosecuted as destruction of county property. She also said anyone caught stealing a sign can be charged with theft of property which can carry not only a fine but also some time in jail.