BREMERTON – County officials warned on Friday about a concerning trend seen atop streets and sidewalks in recent weeks.
Pranksters appear to be lifting metal grates from stormwater drains and sending them into the catch basins below, leaving hazardous gaps in the pavement.
“Somebody has been removing them, picking them up and most of the time just dropping them into the catch basin,” said Andrew Nelson, Public Works director. “It leaves this exposed hole that is dangerous for vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians.”
So far no injuries have been reported, Nelson said. But officials are concerned about the obvious public safety hazard, and the cost of having crews scour the region to remedy the problem.
Around 50 incidents had been reported as of Monday, estimated Angela Gallardo, Public Works’ stormwater operations manager.
“And they’re heavy,” Gallardo said. “Getting them back out from 20-feet deep is not easy.”
The issue started in the Ridgetop area, Gallardo said, with missing grates also spotted in Anderson Hill and Indianola.
Most have been seen in Central Kitsap but the problem has not been confined there. Mist Neff of Port Orchard spotted one near her home, at Fircrest Dr. and Conifer Park Dr., on Feb. 20. She said the Public Works department was quick to address the matter that same day.
It isn’t the first time the county has had to deal with missing metal, Nelson said. Some years ago, grates and manhole covers were being pilfered to sell for scrap. Once buyers were made aware of the problem they stopped accepting the stolen goods, Nelson said.
This time, the issue appears to be vandalism – as the equipment is simply being dropped at the scene.
“It’s not different from a manhole lid,” Nelson said of the grates, which fit into a fitting at the top of the catch basin but are not bolted down. “They’re heavy, but a strong person could do it with their hands.”
The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the matter. In the meantime, county officials ask residents to be on the lookout for street gaps and to report them to the police.
Gabe Stutman is a reporter with the Kitsap News Group. Follow him on Twitter @kitsapgabe.