DARIEN, Ga. -- McIntosh County Commissioner Mark Douglas says the solution to the county's sign theft problem is simple: stop with the cutesy street names.
Signs marking Green Acres, Boone's Farm, Mary Jane Lane and Harmony Hill have been perennial favorites among sign thieves in the mostly rural county, he said. They are stolen over and over and over, and must be replaced again and again and again.
Who could forget the old "Green Acres" television show of the 1960s? Apparently there's a fan club in McIntosh County. Boone's Farm wines remain popular among oenophiles who shop at convenience stores, and Mary Jane Lane has long been a veiled reference to marijuana.
Harmony Hill, well, that bit of alliteration just sounds pleasant, Douglas said.
"Boring names," Douglas declared. "That might be about the only thing we can do. We're actually losing a lot of our good taxpayers' money to folks who get their kicks stealing signs."
How much money? County Manager Luther Smart puts the sum at $17,000 a year.
"We're losing something like 550 signs a year to theft," he said. "The most popular ones, we've replaced five to 10 times. They steal them as fast as we can make them and put them back up."
The county has its own sign-making shop. Still the cost to produce them is about $20 for the standard rectangular streets signs. Add another $8 if the thief took the post, too. Stop signs and curve signs, also popular, go for $30 to $50 apiece, Smart said.
Some signs are stolen, but others are "wounded" in the line of duty to the extent that they must be replaced, he said.
"In any rural county, you're going to find bullet holes in signs," Smart said, "or signs ruined by a shotgun blast."
Sign thieves are risking much more than they might think, Smart said.
"They don't understand the liability issue," he said. "If they cause an ambulance or fire truck not to be able to find a location in distress, they could be charged with a felony, and they will also be responsible for any monetary damages incurred as a result."
County officials took a step a while back that they thought would alleviate the sign theft problem. They went to fiberglass over metal as a means of thwarting thieves who took them to sell as scrap, commission Chairman Boyd Gault said.
"We're still having as many problems as we were before," he said. That means that sign thieves are taking them because they feel a personal connection to them rather than for what they would bring at a salvage yard.
Which goes back to Douglas's solution.
"Streets with names like First, Second, Third, Oak, Palmetto," he said. "That's what we need."