County pays for costs of stolen road signs, residents could pay in cost of public safety levels

Posted February 8, 2017 at 10:35 am

“Safety.” That is the key words used by both Clinton County Judge/Executive Richard Armstrong and Director of Emergency Services Lonnie Scott regarding the ongoing problem Clinton, and probably other counties, face when it comes to road signs being destroyed or stolen.

Although perpetrators that damage, tear down or steal signs may only consider it a prank, it should be considered that it is still against the law, costs the county–thus taxpayers in the long run–money that could be used to benefit the public, but more importantly, poses a danger to the safety of all residents in times of an emergency.

Judge Armstrong stressed the safety issue earlier this week when discussing the ongoing problem of county road signs being stolen, noting that emergency personnel, such as ambulances, rely on the road signs to find a specific location during an emergency. In locations where road signs are missing, emergency personnel may have to back-track to get to a location and as Armstrong put it, “a minute may make the difference in life or death.”

There is no primary area where theft of road signs take place, some of the most recent areas include the Cannon’s Mill Road off Hwy. 350 (Old Monticello Road) toward Sugar Valley where the entire sign and pole was taken. Other recent sign thefts include on Pennycuff Road and the Carlie Ayers Road, the latter in the Piney Woods community, as well as Malone Ridge and Blue Ridge.

Scott concurred that the most disturbing aspect of theft of road signs in the safety of citizens, especially when an ambulance, fire truck, or police are attempting to get to an emergency situation when someone’s life my be on the line.

Armstrong noted there was at least a half-dozen signs stolen on average per month, noting the Cannon’s Mill Road sign had been taken about six times in the last couple of years alone.

According to Andy Davis, Clinton County’s Mapping and Addressing Coordinator, there are approximately 700 county roads signs in place.

Armstrong admitted that no one is ever prosecuted because they are never caught, but appeals to the goodness in people in asking they not steal the signs and put people’s lives in danger.

The signs, counting the cost to install them, cost approximately $50 per sign, thus if six signs per month are taken, the county is out at least $300 in cost, labor and time.

Despite the cost and aggravation, Armstrong and Scott stressed it was the “safety and welfare of the people that live on those roads” that is the main concern.

County Attorney Michael Rains also noted the theft or destruction of a road sign is considered a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, plus fees and court costs for anyone convicted. He said perpetrators could be charged with both theft by unlawful taking under $500 and/or criminal mischief, the latter a Class B misdemeanor, which could carry up to 30 days in jail plus court costs.