Street sign theft a surprising issue

Some residents of Williamstown who were building new homes off Northwest Hill Road approached the town recently with the request that their side street be christened “Purple Mountain Pass”. Apparently there is some Williams College heritage among the group, and it seemed like a nice enough thing to do. Mindful of our credo here that “We Work For You”, we even volunteered to fabricate and install the street sign at taxpayer expense. Little did we imagine that we would be working on our fourth sign by now.

The first sign lasted less than two weeks. One morning our work crew was driving by and noticed the topless sign post. Street sign theft is a relatively uncommon but not unheard-of crime in Williamstown. Mostly we’re flattered that folks think enough of our work to take it. It’s less hurtful than it is vandalism.

Our Department of Public Works (DPW) guys are creative and indefatigable. The second sign was fabricated using intentionally distorted mounting bolts to thwart their removal, but to no avail. Shortly after installation the second sign disappeared, leaving only the silent sentinel post. This is starting to get serious (serious fun, I mean). When fabricating the third sign, the shop epoxyed the bolt threads, cut off the heads, and smashed the stubs to prevent their removal. Success! The sign thieves were unable to remove the sign – without taking the whole post with them, which they did.

Beyond “whodunit,” other questions plague me. Is the same person taking all of these signs? Will we someday find them all hoarded in the same dorm room, or tossed in the same trash can? Is there a black market for “Purple Mountain Pass” signs? There weren’t any on eBay today. Is it the sign that attracts, or the thrill, or both?

Anyway, a solution is at hand. Our best DPW guys have hired a structural engineer and a demolitions expert to consult on our next installation. The cops are involved, too. They have a pool going and so far the smart money in on the thieves. It will be a little while before we make our next move, because the stakes are getting so high. In the mean time, “Purple Mountain Pass” signs are available at the Town Manager’s office for $22.75 each. Delivery time is two weeks, and payment must be made in advance.

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Yours truly,

Peter L. Fohlin

Town Manager

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