LINCOLN -The Alcona County Road Commission is offering a $500 reward after a dozen traffic signs were damaged along roads through U.S. Forest lands in Millen Township.
Most of the damage was caused by paintball guns, officials said Monday.
"A lot of people think you can just wipe the paint off and you can't," Jesse Campbell, managing director of Alcona County roads, said.
The paintballs damage the surface of new, high-tech reflective signs that are being installed because they offer better visibility to motorists at night, he said. The signs consist of a $28 decal attached to a metal backing.
"Stop signs are targeted quite a bit," Campbell said. "People with paintball guns come to an intersection and stay back and take a shot at them."
They also are vandalizing "Stop Ahead" and "Dead End" signs, he said.
As long as there is no damage to the sign's metal backing, the old decal can be peeled off and a new one applied, he said. But costs mount up.
"It costs more for labor and equipment expenses than just the decals," he said.
Damage to signs by bullet holes is down, because of penalties for the misuse of a fire arm, he said. Yet it still occurs occasionally, as well as spray paint graffiti.
At a recent meeting, the road commissioners renewed the reward system, which they hope will motivate people to call the sheriff when they see or hear of damage being done.
The new high-tech signs were created as a result of research by several safety agencies at the federal level, Administrative Assistant Marlena Mac Neill, said. The reason is because motorists are now driving more miles at higher rates of speed. They also are getting older. So road signs must be more visible than in the past, and are now required by law.
The new signs also have been designed to have a longer life expectancy, except when damaged by vandals, she said.
Street names are vulnerable to theft, especially if they display a family name, Mac Neill said. Signs identifying Fowler Road recently disappeared, and can cost $35 to $50 each, depending on the length of the name.
"We replaced it a couple times in recent history," she said.
"We budget $5,000 for signs, however, the townships pay for the road name signs," she said. "The point is that vandalism doesn't just hurt the road commission budget, it hurts the township budgets."
Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.