Corbin hit by rash of sewer grate thefts
Above, part of a storm sewer grate along Fourth Street in Corbin has been missing for weeks. Officials say it is one of 16 taken from around the city.
Local authorities are on the lookout for those responsible for a recent epidemic of city storm-drain and sewer grate thefts going on in Corbin.
In the past three weeks, 16 different sized grates, valued at more than $3,000, have been removed from their matching drains, city officials said.
"This has become a bad problem," Corbin Mayor Willard McBurney said. "This could cause someone to wreck, bust a tire or tear the whole front end off your car."
The sewer grates have been stolen from various locations around the city. Five grates were stolen from behind the Kroger on Master St., five more were taken from various locations down Sanderlin Drive, one from McFadden St., two off of Fourth St. and two more from the Corbin Tech Center. Also a large four-foot sewer grate was stolen from Miller Park in Corbin.
Corbin's Public Works Director, Gary Kelly said that replacing these grates is costing the city several thousands of dollars in supplies and manpower. Kelly also said that many of the grates, like those that were taken off Fourth St., are very old and are not manufactured anymore.
"In those cases we will have to completely go in and reconstruct the catch basin. Then we have to rebuild a smaller frame and then purchase a new lid to fit," Kelly said. "This will cost the city a lot of money, about $500 apiece to totally redo."
According to Roger Shelton, Assistant Public Works Director, the grates stolen from the Tech Center are the largest missing so far, weighing in more than 100 pounds.
"They could cost about $200 each to replace," Shelton said.
And as if stealing sewer grates wasn't enough, long-time Second District Constable and owner of Bubba's Bubble Bath, Ron Bowling, had a drainage grate stolen from one of his wash bays on Master St.
"Those are there for a safety reason," Bowling said. "A missing one could cost someone serious injury. I tell you its dangerous. It was a good thing I caught it and no one drove a car into that. It's three foot deep."
The grate that was stolen was nearly 36 inches wide by 54 inches tall, and weighed at least 120 pounds. Bowling said it cost him more than $400 to replace, a price detrimental to a small company. He said that it was the first time any of his car washes in Corbin have been hit, but around the county it's a common thing because of the lack of visibility.
"People are just pulling a pickup truck into the bays so it looks like they are washing their vehicle. Then they get out and load it up into their truck and take off," Bowling said.
After stealing the metal, McBurney suspects those responsible are stopping by scrap yards and selling those pieces for cash.
"It's a quick and fast way to make some money," McBurney said. "These scrap places around here are pretty much aware so they must be taking them some place else."
Bowling has another idea.
"Scrap yards start to review this stuff, so they pile those grates underneath a bunch of other scrap to hide it and add weight to their ticket."
Kelly said that all of the local scrap yards have been contacted and only one has called back to say they may have some of the grates that belong to the City of Corbin, but it wasn't for sure.
A tip from a local scrap yard, just like this one, has helped Corbin put down a culprit in the past.
In 2008 Solomon Lyttle, of Woodbine, was arrested in connection with the theft of at least three sewer grates from east Corbin.
Authorities tracked down Lyttle by contacting local scrap metal companies and found that he had sold the grate to Gray Metal Company.
The cash value that the grates are producing is very little and not worth the effort Kelly said.
"$10-15 for the smaller ones and no more than $20 for the large ones. I just don't get it."
Bowling has an idea for putting a stop to these thefts. And it starts with the scrap yards.
"This is a major deal. Not only here but also all over southeast Kentucky. The sooner the state gets to a point where they keep these scrap yards and recycling centers accountable the better off we'll be."
McBurney wants to assure the public that the culprit of these thefts will be caught and the maximum penalty will be sought.
"We're working very hard to catch whoever is responsible," McBurney said. "If anyone sees any of this behavior going on I urge you to please call the police. Someone has a lot of nerve and when we find out who it is we will be prosecuting to the fullest extent."
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