With 14 street signs stolen, town offers amnesty for their return

Posted Nov. 28, 2011, at 8:22 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 29, 2011, at 2:09 p.m.

LAMOINE, Maine — Local officials are hoping to regain some lost property with an amnesty program that is good through the end of the year.

Stu Marckoon, a Lamoine town official, said Monday that approximately 14 signs were taken from Shore Road and Lamoine Beach Road earlier this month.

“That’s a lot in one fell swoop,” Marckoon said, referring to the 14 stolen this month. The roads “are all unmarked at the moment.”

Marckoon said each sign and post, and the labor to have them installed, cost about $100. The town has ordered replacements, but would like to have the stolen signs returned, he said. The signs are important to public safety, Marckoon added, because they help direct police officers, firefighters and ambulance crews to properties where they are needed.

Eric Conrad, spokesman for Maine Municipal Association, said Monday that the association is unaware of other municipalities having recent problems with a significant number of street signs being stolen, though it does tend to happen more often in college towns.

But according to Peter Coughlin, director of Maine Local Roads Center, which is part of the Maine Department of Transportation, it is a constant issue for many towns. He said some signs get stolen repeatedly, causing a headache for local officials who try to figure out how to prevent future thefts.

Aside from being taken by someone young who wants a souvenir to hang on their wall, street signs sometimes are taken by a nearby resident who doesn’t want his road identified, or who doesn’t like the name that’s been chosen for the road he lives on, according to Coughlin. Many roads that were unnamed for decades have been named during the past 10 years as a result of new requirements aimed at improving emergency response services in Maine.

“There’s a variety of reasons [street signs are stolen],” Coughlin said. “I don’t think you’d find many towns that would say ‘not a problem here.’”

Jeff Moran, head of sales for White Sign in Old Town, said Monday that the firm makes street signs for “hundreds” of municipalities in Maine, though Lamoine is not one of them. He said he thinks most signs are stolen by souvenir seekers, not by disgruntled property owners.

He said “High Street” is one of the more popular names targeted by sign thieves. Other street names such as “Whitetail Lane” sometimes go missing during hunting season, he said.

“We get orders every day,” Moran said. “It is definitely an ongoing problem.”

Meanwhile, Marckoon, the Lamoine town official, said high schools in Ellsworth and on Mount Desert Island, where older Lamoine children attend school, have agreed to post the amnesty offer where students will see it.

“Folks may leave the signs at the Lamoine Town Hall anonymously either during business hours or after closure by placing them on the doorstep,” officials wrote in the release.

If anyone returns the stolen street signs to the town office on Route 184 by Jan. 1. 2012, no questions will be asked, town officials indicated in a press release. The amnesty represents a chance for those who may have taken signs to avoid possible prosecution, town officials said in the release.

Other local street signs taken before the 14 that vanished this month, no matter how old, will be accepted as part of the amnesty.

The signs are either green or blue and have white lettering, and often are marked with a “Town of Lamoine” label. Questions about the signs or the amnesty program can be directed to the town office at 667-2242.

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