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A dangerous target
Vandalism to rural road signs a serious problem
new deh damaged stop sign pic
Dale Phillips, Barton County Road and Bridge director, Monday shows the Barton County Commission a stop sign that was virtually destroyed by gun shots. The County regularly replaces vandalized though out the year. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

 Road and Bridge Department Director Dale Phillips held up a stop sign before the County Commission Monday morning, a sign that had been keeping motorists safe in the northeast part of the county until a vandal had used a shotgun to blast two big holes in the sign large enough to put a fist through.
“Recently, we’ve seen a lot of this,” he said about intentional damage to rural road signs. So far this year, 150 signs have been replaced due to vandalism, accounting for 25 percent of all sign replacements.
The price to replace these vandalized signs has been $21,382. “It’s costing the taxpayers a lot,” he said.
“I wanted to let them known why our sign budget was over budget,” he said of his presentation to commissioners Monday. “This is what we’re dealing with on a daily basis.”
Between the cost of the marker, the post, the labor and the overtime, they can cost up to $150 each to replace. Then there’s the inconvenience of having to trek out to the farthest reaches of the county to do the work.
“It’s just senseless,” Phillips said. One stop sign had 57 bullet holes, and once it was replaced, vandals started in on it again.
But, there is more than money and time involved. It is also a matter of safety and the law, said Barton County Undersheriff Larry Holliday.
“We’ve had several calls in the last month,” he said about reports of damaged signs. The Barton County Sheriff’s Office and Road and Bridge stay in close communication on this issue.
Rural intersections are dangerous enough, even with stop signs in place. They can be even more treacherous without them.
In fact, Holliday said the person who damaged a sign can be held liable for an accident that occurs at the location where a sign had been destroyed.
“It’s an ongoing problem,” the undersheriff said. Besides vandals, a lot of signs fall victim to large farm machinery, the drivers of which may not even know they hit something.
Phillips said its good to get the word out about the problem once in a while. “If we make people more aware, maybe they will report seeing something and put a damper on this.”