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North Stonington - Resident state troopers are on the lookout for information on the theft of an antique store sign stolen earlier this month - the latest case in the rash of sign thefts that First Selectman Nick Mullane says takes place regularly, especially in the summer.
"It's pretty commonplace, but it comes and goes over the years," he said.
The town sent out a news alert and posted it to its website last week requesting information on the theft of an owl-shaped sign that sat outside of The Owl's Barn antiques and collectibles store on Mains Crossing. It was likely taken around Sept. 6 or 7.
Public Works Director and Highway Foreman Stephen Holliday said street and traffic signs are the typical targets; this is the first instance of a private sign being nabbed that he knows of in the 21 years he's worked in town, he said.
Mullane said sign theft usually peaks over the summer during school vacation. Holliday said this season about a dozen street signs went missing, including signs for Chester Main Road, Hangman Hill Road and Legend Wood Road. Most have been replaced, he said, but a few more empty posts remain. The sign at the intersection of Hollowell and Northwest Corner roads disappeared about three weeks ago - an easy target "out in the boonies," Holliday said - and after replacing it, it's been taken yet again.
"I don't want to say right now we have an epidemic, but we do have a couple go missing now and then," he said, later adding, "It is a few more than I'd like."
Holliday said that depending on if the sign post was taken, too, the town spends between $2,000 and $3,000 a year to replace street and road signs.
"It's just kind of a pain that we really don't need," he said - something that takes money, energy and time away from the regular schedules and projects of public works and highway employees. Holliday said they try to keep spares handy so they don't have to go too long without; Mullane said the biggest problem is usually getting a replacement and then putting it up in a timely manner.
Holliday said each replacement adds up to about $200.
Resident state troopers are notified when a sign goes missing, Mullane and Holliday said, but neither can recall a thief having been caught - though Mullane said occasionally they will find a few "thrown over a wall somewhere."
"I hate to say it, but it's the cost of doing business, running roads," Mullane said.