Two years after a Town Times article warned of the cost of street sign vandalism in Durham, the town continues to struggle with keeping its signs free of unwanted paint, or worse yet, from disappearing altogether.
"We put new ones up, they get spray painted first," said Kurt Bober, the town's director of public works, during a recent interview.
It's hard not to notice the vandalism, which Bober described as often being a crude attempt at humor.
"Instead of speed limit, they'll write 'weed' limit," he said.
Public safety is Bober's top priority and he said the damage can lead to serious consequences for the town, as well unsuspecting drivers.
"We have people who don't think twice about it, the ramifications. We put up brand new signs and they spray paint over the front of the stop sign. What happens if grandma doesn't see the sign? An accident happens."
Bober said signs that have been spray painted will not always be replaced.
"If its anything vulgar, offensive they get immediately replaced. It's a judgement call," he said.
Durham spends about $5,000 a year on sign replacement according to Bober, which includes the cost of replacing older signs or signs damaged by other factors.
A single vandalized sign can cost as much as $250 to replace, he said.
"Reinstallation of the post, the brackets and the singage, just the materials is $150. Then add the cost of labor," Bober said in explaining the nuances of having to replace an entire sign.
Last year, the town installed all new street name signs, which are more reflective, as part of a program mandated by the state. Bober said it did not take long for thieves to begin stealing the new signs.
"We've had signs put up on a couple of these new roads and the very next day the sign is missing," he said.
On top of the annual cost to repair or replace signs, the town will spend $40,000 over three years to comply with the state's new sign requirements.
It all adds up to an expensive problem.
"They need to figure out what their priorities are," Bober said speaking of the group he believes is responsible for most of the vandalism. "They're kids, they don't understand the dollar amount that goes with it."
Editor's Note: If you see a vandalized stop sign, or a sign that is missing, contact the Public Works Department at 860-349-1816.