ALBANY, GA (WALB) – Someone poured sand and dirt into a backhoe's fuel tank, crankcase, and transmission over the weekend. Authorities are concerned about continuing vandalism of their equipment, and are asking for the public's help.
Neighbors said they saw two boys, only about 12 years old, around the county equipment. County officials are not just dismissing it as youthful mischief, they want people to know that vandalism like this can be cost to taxpayers.
The vandalism of the backhoe happened here on Countryside Drive, where county workers are doing improvements on the drainage system around this pond. Mechanics returned the backhoe to their shop, and today were replacing all the fluids and filters twice.
"No it was not a funny joke. It caused us downtime, it costs us parts to replace it, fluids and all. Fortunately our operator went through what we normally do," said Dougherty County Public Works Assistant Director Chucky Mathis.
The operator checked the equipment before he started it, and spotted the vandalism. Mechanics say if he had tried to start the machinery, they would probably have to replace the engine and transmission, costing more than ten thousand dollars.
But they are also concerned that it cost them downtime working on the drainage system, that is vital to prevent flooding that damaged homes in this region last spring.
They leave the equipment at job sites to improve productivity. "It's costly to move them up and down the road. And we're on county right of way. We should be able to leave our machinery on county property with the respect that people understand we are out there doing a job," said Mathis.
There have been two other cases of vandalism or theft of county equipment this year that cost thousands of dollars to repair, and of course it costs you money. "Every time we have to bring a piece of equipment in for unscheduled service, it costs the taxpayers," Mathis said.
So county officials are asking you to keep an eye on their equipment after hours or on weekends, and if you see anyone suspicious around it, call Police. That could save money, and time doing vital infrastructure work. Mechanics say they expect to have the backhoe repaired and back on the job by tomorrow.
But they say they would appreciate the public's help safeguarding their equipment. Dougherty County Police are investigating the vandalism, and say if they find the two boys they will likely be charged with criminal damage.