Police investigate Tremont town office vandalism

Posted May 12, 2010, at 9:23 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:44 a.m.

TREMONT, Maine — Town officials have covered up or removed words and symbols that were spray painted on the town office last weekend, but police still are trying to determine who may be responsible.

Some symbols that resemble swastikas and the words “selectmen” and “dye” were painted on the building late Friday night or early Saturday morning, according to Maine State Police Trooper Dan Ryan.

“It appears that the graffiti was directed toward the selectmen,” Ryan said Wednesday. “I don’t know if [the vandals] didn’t know how to correctly spell ‘die.’”

Ryan said police are analyzing the round swastikalike symbols but he is not sure whether the vandal or vandals intended to express any type of prejudice against minorities, racial or otherwise. Aside from the word “selectmen,” who might be the target of any such intimidation is not readily apparent, he said. None of the local selectmen is believed to be part of any racial or religious minority.

“We have no indication of any type of hate group” being involved, Ryan said. “It could have been random criminal mischief.”

Ryan said officials do not know what may have prompted the vandalism. Selectmen’s decisions often are not universally liked, he said, but what decision may have led to the defacement is unknown.

Millard Billings, Tremont’s town manager, said Wednesday that the town was able to remove paint from the building’s glass windows and doors relatively easily and that it has painted over the vinyl siding that was defaced. He said the town plans to do more work to repair the damage.

“It’s bleeding through in places,” he said of the spray paint. “We’re going to replace the siding that got damaged.”

Billings said the town’s insurance would cover the repairs. He said he has not yet received estimates for the cost of replacing the siding.

The damage was discovered by Selectman Chris Eaton at approximately 6:30 a.m. Saturday, when he drove by on his way to work, Billings said. He said he is not sure whether selectmen might consider installing a security camera at the office.

“We haven’t discussed it,” Billings said.

Tremont has a history of vandalism directed at town officials, though it has been nearly 20 years since any such incident attracted widespread attention.

In late 1991 and early 1992, the car of then-Town Manager Gretchen Strong was vandalized twice by having tar poured on it and being covered with feathers. A few weeks after the car incidents, a sign with directions to a bed-and-breakfast owned by Strong received the same tar-and-feather treatment.

Billings and Trooper Ryan each said Wednesday they don’t know whether there might be any connection between the latest act of vandalism and the tar-and-feather incidents.

Maine State Police Trooper Tom Pickering is assisting Ryan in investigating the case. Anyone with information about who may be involved is asked to contact Maine State Police at 800-432-7381 or 667-3722.

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