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'Tis season for signs to go missing
airport road signs 4
Signs line the side of Airport Road in Hinesville. - photo by Photo by Alena Parker.
City right-of-ways include:
* ditches and sidewalks
* fire hydrants
* telephone boxes
* any public utility
When John Baker, owner of Happy Acres Mobile Home Park, staked five political signs in a plot of his own land on Kelly Drive last week, he hoped the signs would last through the election season, or at least through the day.
"I left. Within the hour, every one of them was gone," Baker said.
He and his wife, Mardene Baker, who co-owns the park, thought the signs were stolen after officials from the city inspections department told the Bakers they did not remove the signs for being illegally placed.
The incident upset Baker, who said he thinks everyone should be allowed to freely express opinions.   
"It doesn't even matter who I'm supporting, that's not the issue," he said. "We're going to start peeling off bumper stickers next?"
Further investigation by city code enforcement officer Maureen Mobley found Baker's signs were not stolen, but actually were removed by one of the inspectors for being illegally placed in a city right-of-way.
However, Baker didn't find his signs when he went to retrieve them from behind city hall, where code enforcement officers leave all confiscated signs.
"Anybody could have picked up," he said. "I'm not that concerned about it at this point."
Baker is just glad no one actually took them from his property.
"I was perturbed that someone may have maliciously taken them," Baker said.
 Mobley said sign theft during election season is not uncommon.
"Occasionally, at this time, people do steal other people's signs," she said.
Inspectors do not pick up signs based on content, according to Mobley, nor do they hunt for signs that violate regulations.
"We don't go looking, especially for (illegal) signs. If they're on our route, we stop and get them," she said.
In addition to political signs, the department picks up yard sale, for sale, realty and other signs.
Mobley said she hasn't noticed an increase in signs posted around town.
"I think there were more (signs) when there were more local (candidates)," Mobley said. "This (election season) hasn't been very bad."
Code enforcement officials typically pick up illegal signs Tuesday through Thursday, since the sign ordinance moratorium relaxes the rules from noon Friday to noon Monday, when temporary signs may be placed in city right-of-ways. The moratorium has been extended until Dec. 31.
Mobley said her office usually fields two calls a week from people looking for signs that have been removed, and the inspectors explain the rules.
"A lot of people know, but just as many people don't know," Mobley said.
Baker's unfamiliarity with guidelines led to the confiscation of his signs. He said he now understands his mistake, thanks to the inspection department's representatives, who Baker said were helpful and apologetic about the mix-up.
However, Baker said he plans to get more signs to support his favorite candidates.
Baker and his wife also will use a van to give voters rides to the polls on Election Day.
"It's not even about who I'm supporting," he said. "I just believe in the whole electoral process."
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