Stolen street signs a problem

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 12, 2003

What may seem like harmless fun to some is proving expensive to the Covington County taxpayers as street signs bearing the newly renamed streets in the county are being vandalized or stolen.

"When you consider the manpower and all the materials that go into them, the cost is at least $50 apiece," said Susan Carpenter, director of E-911, which has supervised the renaming of roads and the fabrication of the signs. The county engineer's department installs them

"We've recently replaced 75 signs," said Carpenter who estimates more than 2000 have been destroyed since the beginning. That has cost the service from $350 to $1,000 so far.

But the costs could be much higher.

"The reason we're doing this is for the safety of the people in the county," said Carpenter, referring to the renaming of county roads. "If the signs are not up, it's difficult for emergency personnel to find someone who needs help. Until now, a lot of these dirt roads didn't have signs - some didn't even have names."

Carpenter suspects that some of the vandals are young people, since the vandalism incidences spike during school breaks. Only one has been caught so far. Kevin Qualls, 18, was pulled over for a traffic stop in River Falls last weekend by River Falls Police Chief Jeff Holland. In a search of the vehicle, after a drug dog indicated the presence of a controlled substance, Holland found the road sign to C Four Lane in the trunk of the vehicle.

Qualls was charged with being in possession of a traffic sign, a misdemeanor offense. If found guilty, Qualls will face up to a $50 fine, court costs, and the cost of replacing the sign.

"If anybody's caught, we will press charges," said Carpenter.

The remaining process has been completed by E-911, although many of the signs have had to be replaced. Carpenter said she has had some questions about the signage system and explained that the green signs are public roads and the blue signs, designated either "drive" or "street" are private thoroughfares, with the "drives" leading to a single residence and the "lanes" leading to multiple residences.