Archive for Wednesday, February 2, 2000

Vandals srike again at bridge

February 2, 2000

Chris Rech, area manager for a company constructing the bridge over Stranger Creek at the Tonganoxie Cliffs, has a two-word warning for vandals who repeatedly have hit at the bridge site: "We'll prosecute."

Or better yet, Rech added, "Put them in stocks and keep them on Main Street in Tonganoxie."

Rech estimated that repeated acts of vandalism have cost the construction company $10,000 in theft of materials, damage to equipment and work time lost.

Saying that he has only had to post a security guard at one other location in downtown Chicago Rech explained that he hadn't expected this type of destruction in rural Kansas.

"It's really kind of dumbfounding that somebody has taken the time to do this kind of damage," said Rech, of the A.M. Cohron and Son construction company, based in Atlantic, Iowa.

On the night of Jan. 26, the vandalism went deeper than mere pranks, said John Lillig, Kansas Department of Transportation project coordinator for the project.

"We poured the concrete pier cap and left at 5 in the evening with everything buttoned up with insulated tarps tented over the area and heaters inside," Lillig said. "The temperature inside at that time was 64 degrees. The contractor sent somebody out to check the heaters at 10:30 that night and vandals had already opened up the tarps on the north end where the wind was coming in. By that time it had dropped the temperature on us down to 52 degrees."

For the concrete to set properly, Lillig said a temperature of 40 degrees would have to be maintained for a minimum of seven days.

"It didn't hurt us," Lillig said of that night's vandalism. "But it sure didn't help us."

In addition, Lillig said, during the weekend of Jan. 21 and 22, vandals threw support rods, a ladder and other equipment into the creek.

"We had to clambucket them out and it took at least until 11 in the morning until we were back to normal operation again," Lillig said.

David Zoellner, undersheriff, said vandalism has been a chronic problem at the site.

"But it's kind of unusual to have it happen during the week," Zoellner said.

The sheriff's department is stepping up patrol on the area, Zoellner said.

"We're trying to provide extra patrol and security checks on that area," Zoellner said. "One of the problems is that if there's activity on the other side of the creek from where you are, you can't get to it in time."

Greg Leonard works for Tri-State Traffic Control, Stockton, Mo., the company in charge of putting up barricades on the roadway.

"We got it again," Leonard said. "On Friday or Saturday (Jan. 21 or Jan. 22), they destroyed our barricade again and took our lights again."

As far as vandalism is concerned, Leonard said, there have been 10 incidents so far.

The destruction puzzles Leonard.

"They take all four lights on the barricades," Leonard said. "If they can't get the lights off the barricades, they break them they destroy them."

Leonard said it's unusual to have something like this crop up in Kansas.

"We've got projects all over the state of Kansas and I have had more trouble with this job than anywhere else."

So much so, in fact, that Tri-State is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those who are doing the dirty work.

"I'd like to catch them," Leonard said.

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