Sign vandalism a growing problem in Stevens County

KATIE LEITHEAD | Statesman-Exmainer
S-E Staff Reporter

Vandalizing road signs is no joke.

What may seem like a harmless prank could result in loss of life warns Jason Hart, director of public works and assistant county engineer.

Stevens County maintains 4,490 miles of county roads, with over 4,000 signs under the county's jurisdiction. So far this year 238 county road signs have been recorded as having been vandalized, according to the 2017 Sign Plate and Post Maintenance Report for Stevens County.

To replace each sign it costs $35 for the sign and $15 for a new post. Two county sign crew employees are sent out to repair the sign at approximately $100 an hour, and on average it takes two hours unless multiple signs are damaged in the same area.

Whether it's the weekend or a holiday, important signs are replaced within 24 hours, according to Hart.

The county needs to replace so many of the damaged signs because they're either broken beyond repair, missing altogether, or their reflectivity has been compromised. Reflectivity wears out naturally, which is why signs are tested as part of maintenance, but it can also be ruined from dents, scratches and paint.

More than one in 10 signs have to be replaced because of the type of vandalism seen in Stevens County. County crews come across signs poles that have been sawed through, signs that have been hit with a car or shot with a gun, according to Hart.

By the time the year is over, these pranks will have cost Stevens County taxpayers upwards of $60,000.

The full story is available online here or by picking up the Dec. 13, 2017 edition of the S-E.