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New fire hydrant stolen from Steubenville Marina

THIEVES STRIKE — The hydrant on LaBelle Avenue that had topped this valve for two months is missing. Witnesses said two men in a light-colored truck knocked the hydrant off its mooring, then loaded it in the truck bed before fleeing. (Contributed photo)

STEUBENVILLE — A fire hydrant installed at the marina in August has already been stolen.

The missing hydrant was noticed Oct. 9, 6th Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna said. “But the guys I talked to down there said it happened a week earlier,” he added.

Villamagna said the last time he was at the marina he bumped into some men who said they saw it happen.

“They said, ‘You’re that councilman, aren’t you? You’re not going to believe what we saw.’ … Then they showed me where the hydrant was.”

The men who witnessed the theft described two men in a light-colored pickup truck who backed up to the hydrant and pushed it over, “then they got out and threw it in the bed of the truck.”

City Manager Jim Mavromatis said the good news is the automatic shut off worked, so no water was lost. He figures, though, it could cost $1,500 to $1,900 to replace.

“A guy is coming in to see if we have to take it back to the main or just replace (what’s missing),” he said.

City officials believe it’s the first hydrant theft in Steubenville, though Mavromatis said they’ve had plenty of other things come up missing or damaged.

“We’ve had other issues down there with illegal dumping,” Mavromatis said. “We’ve actually had manhole covers stolen. And three years in a row we’ve had someone damage the fence (by the playground at Belleview Park … we just removed the fencing. Even though we’ve apprehended people responsible, it’s just not cost-effective to keep putting money in something they destroy every year.

“Two years ago someone took one of the nutcrackers, a couple young people did it as a joke. Thankfully, cameras picked up the vehicle and the subjects. … They ended up turning themselves in. People here wanted to hang them.”

Villamagna has been openly critical of a proposal to develop the city’s riverfront given the other major expenditures on the horizon, and he said the theft has only reinforced his position.

“If they’re going to take that, what do you think would happen if we put something else there?” he asked.

But Councilwoman at large Kimberly Hahn figures the purloined hydrant is nothing they haven’t seen in other parts of the city.

“What we’re finding at Belleview Park, which is patrolled pretty frequently, and at Beatty, which isn’t patrolled as frequently, is that there are people who will damage things,” she said. “You don’t really know why they do it, but they (target) things that are nice.

“Is there a danger of vandalism? Sure. Does that mean we don’t do things that are good for people just because a handful of people will try to vandalize them? No. The question is what can we do to discourage vandalism.”

Hahn said cameras and lighting upgrades have been a deterrent at Belleview. “They won’t stop all the vandalism but they will discourage it,” Hahn said.

Mavromatis agreed, pointing out city residents have been very supportive of crime-solving efforts.

“Citizens, when they see things criminal happening, are reporting it,” he said. “It gives us good information, (them) being at the right place at the right time to see something.”

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