On Tuesday, Bean reported to the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office that five road signs had been discovered vandalized last Friday, including: stop signs on Price’s Grove Road, Ridge Road and Walker Church Road; a dead end sign on Arnott Road; and a hidden entrance sign on Wolfe Branch Road.
The cost of replacing these five signs was just short of $200.
Bean said the most common vandalism is painting on signs, including messages, crude drawings, or apparent gang insignias. Speed limit signs are frequently tampered with by someone trying to make, for example, a 30 mph sign look like 80 mph.
Bean said occasionally there will be sign theft.
“It comes in waves,” Bean said. “Sometimes you’ll get one or two, and sometimes you’ll get seven or eight. It just depends who’s in what area, and how mischievous they’re feeling. Some of the road names might be their last name and I guess they want to hang one up in their bedroom.
“We do have some areas where they mess with signs very often, and we’ll just leave them up if it’s not anything too vulgar. If you go back the next day and change it, they’ll paint it the next day. So we’ll leave them up for a while and let them get it out of their system, and then we’ll go back and eventually get them changed out.”
Bean budgets $20,000 annually for sign replacement, but he usually only spends $12,000 to $15,000.
“If it wasn’t for the vandalism we probably wouldn’t spend over $5,000 per year,” he said. “We’re looking at $7,000 to $10,000 per year just due to sign vandalism.”
Anyone who witnesses road signs being vandalized or stolen is asked to make note of vehicle and personal descriptions, take down a license plate number, and contact the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office at (423) 272-4848.