Kevin Kitchin can live with the fact that vandals come with every construction project.
Some knock over cones, road markers and signs, while some steal. That’s what started happening last fall at the Shiloh Road project.
Last week someone went too far for the fourth time this spring after moving lane markers and forcing oncoming traffic into each other or into ditches.
Each time, the cones and signs were switched between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m., Kitchin said.
“This group of vandals is putting all of us at serious risk,” Kitchin, operations manager of Mountain West Holding Company, said Monday. “It’s very time consuming, very frustrating and the individuals that are responsible for it, I don’t think they understand the ramifications.
“It’s unfortunate they are putting the pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic at high risk.”
Each time the cones and signs are displaced, workers spent up to four hours putting things back before they can get on with work.
Kitchin said special lighted signs worth $2,700 had wires cut and batteries stolen, along with solar panels.
Overall, with the damaged property and extra time, the company is out $10,000.
“They are physically going up and moving 40 to 50 barrels in a night, resetting signs, closing roads that are supposed to be open and opening roads that are supposed to be closed,” said Robert Kober, vice president and general manager of Knife River Corporation in Billings. “We even had them one night resent the candles, which delineate traffic, and they actually channeled the cars and headed them straight over to an excavation that we had.”
Kober said he has filed three separate police reports with the Billings Police Department.
BPD Lt. Mark Cady said patrols are conducting area checks around the construction site.
“At night they are going out there taking a look to see if they can see anybody,” Cady said. “But that’s about all you can do is an area check – we don’t have the manpower to stake it out.”
Kitchin said the company took it one step further by hiring a local security firm.
“We had them for two to three weeks, but they didn’t see anything suspicious,” Kitchin said. “Not too long after that, we got hit again. We tried to catch these folks, and have been unable to do it.”
Kitchin said between 12,000 and 15,000 vehicles travel through the Shiloh Road construction project daily. The 3 1/2 mile project stretches from Zoo Drive to Central Avenue.
“We have to work out there every day, so just working in traffic and around traffic is tough enough to deal with, but when we start getting sheer acts of, I wouldn’t even call it vandalism. It’s above vandalism as far as I’m concerned,” Kober said.
It’s not only the safety of the workers, but the general public that Kober and Kitchin fear for.
Kitchin said three people removed a stop sign from a construction zone in Florida that resulted in the death of two teenage girls driving through.
“A semi went through that intersection and failed to stop,” Kitchin said. “Those are the things we don’t ever want to see -- anyone get hurt -- anybody at all.”