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Stolen road signs have cost county almost $1,600 since October

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Regardless of the time of day, if a stop sign goes missing, someone has to go replace it.

For Precinct 1 McLennan County Commissioner Kelly Snell, it has become an annoyance that is getting expensive for taxpayers.

Snell said stealing a road sign isn’t cool, impressive or a joke.

Missing signs can lead to dangerous accidents or could slow down emergency responders when every minute counts, he said.

Snell has spent almost $1,600 since October 2014 repairing and replacing signs in his precinct, including $900 on stop signs alone. Another $570 was spent during that time replacing and fixing county road name signs and $100 replacing yield signs.

Sign theft is at its highest during summer months, but happens all year, Snell said. Residents and sheriff’s deputies are quick to call if they notice a sign is not where it is supposed to be, he said.

Some signs seem to be more popular than others, including those for Honey Lane and Foxtrot Road, Snell said.

“Crunk Road, they love that sign,” he said.

Susanne Nemmer, Precinct 3 administrative assistant, said the office typically orders a surplus of eight to nine Whiskey Hollow Road signs because of how often those disappear. Signs that feature common last names also are quick to disappear. Snell said his crews do what they can to prevent sign theft, but they are limited by regulations. The Texas Department of Transportation requires that support poles be breakaways, so they will collapse if struck by a vehicle or a certain amount of force, he said.

County crews have tried to make the signs more secure by bolting them to the top of their poles or spot-welding them in place.

“It would be nice to be able to put a half-inch steel pipe in concrete to keep the signs from being removed,” Snell said.

Sign theft and damage happen throughout McLennan County, but Snell said the numbers in his precinct have increased recently.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Ben Perry said, on average, five to seven stop signs are stolen or go missing in his precinct in a given year. Perry said the sign locations appear random in his precinct.

“We had one kid one night, we caught him. He ran over about seven different signs throughout the precinct. When he ran over the last one, the front bumper of his car came off with the license plate,” Snell said.

Once the local student was caught, he had to pay for all the damage, Snell said. Occasionally, parents bring in their children after discovering them in possession of stolen street or stop signs, he said.

In 2007, several street signs were discovered inside an old barn often used as a party spot near Grady Calvery Drive and Interstate 35 in West, Nemmer said.

“All the signs are there for a reason,” Snell said. “It’s not cool to have stop signs, yield and street signs in your room for decoration.”

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