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DOT has spent thousands on fixing vandalized storm drains

More than 30 storm drains in Anchorage have been vandalized over the last month. All on DOT roadways have been fixed, but no arrests have been made according to APD.
More than 30 storm drains in Anchorage have been vandalized over the last month. All on DOT roadways have been fixed, but no arrests have been made according to APD.(Taylor Clark)
Published: Jul. 20, 2020 at 6:50 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - More storm drains in Anchorage were vandalized over the weekend, bringing the total number tampered with since late June to 35, according to the Department of Transportation.

The drains that DOT is responsible for are fixed for now, but Anchorage police said they don’t have a suspect and have not made any arrests.

Maintenance on the drains is turning into a problem that Shannon McCarthy with DOT said is beginning to rack up serious costs to taxpayers.

There were 31 tampered with before the weekend of July 17. Four more were reported vandalized on Dowling Road over the weekend.

McCarthy said of the 31 before the weekend, half have either been irretrievable or missing altogether. The four from Dowling were recovered and fixed.

They aren’t cheap or easy to get on short notice according to McCarthy. She said the highest cost for replacement is up to $400, and finding them is difficult because normally they only need to replace one or two every year.

The grates over the storm drains have been either stolen or dropped to the bottom of the storm drain, which can be as deep as 15 feet. McCarthy said getting the 90-pound metal out is difficult and requires more than a single pair of hands to fix.

All the repairs have been made on overtime as well, adding to the financial loss according to McCarthy.

She estimated that it costs about $100 in overtime for every single call to fix a vandalized drain. She said this bad prank has easily run up over $5,000 so far.

“We don’t have a lot of money,” she said. “This is a razor-thin budget. We would rather save that budget for snow and ice removal.”

While money is tight, the real concern here is for the safety of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. When the grate is off, McCarthy said the hole is about two feet wide and three feet long, so a whole person could easily fall in if they happen to step into it. It, of course, creates a major traffic hazard as well.

Part of the reason DOT has been right behind whoever is responsible, McCarthy said, is because if the state doesn’t act fast to fix the problem they would become liable in the event of an accident.

For the sake of safety and not wasting money from oil revenue that fund the DOT, she said the department is kindly asking those responsible to quit.

“It probably started off as a harmless prank, but it’s not harmless,” she said. “It’s costing the State of Alaska dollars to everybody including yourselves.”

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