By Doug Livingston
Police are investigating the theft of 30 steel grates covering sewage catch basins that have been stolen from city streets between June 19 and 23.
Lewis Zoella, city sanitary department chief, notified police of the thefts. On the morning of June 19, seven of the grates were replaced at Tod Avenue and Irving Place in downtown Youngstown.
“Two days later, they were missing,” Zoella said.
Monday morning, six more grates were stolen from Oak Hill Avenue and Pepsi Place.
“They’re gonna keep taking them to someone who will pay for them,” Zoella said of the culprit or culprits.
Police have a suspect in mind, but no arrest has been made.
The missing grates are causing a safety issue for drivers and pedestrians.
“We could have a big accident,” Zoella said. “A car could flip over. Someone could fall in there.”
The 30 grate covers, weighing nearly 60 pounds each, are valued at a total of $2,000. Zoella said area scrap yards know not to take the grates, but, he added, “It’s all about the dollar.”
Scrap yards are prohibited from receiving stolen goods.
The value of the steel is estimated at around $200 per ton, according to scrap-yard owners. The total weight of the 30 covers is less than a ton, but the price the city pays to replace them is 10 times their worth in scrap, city officials added.
Recycling centers in the immediate area all state a firm policy on refusing any customer trying to bring in the grates.
One scrap-yard operation indicated that it refused many of these grates last week.
Officials have considered bolting the grates down. Zoella said, however, this would prevent accessibility in the winter when water overflows and freezes.
The city is using tar to adhere the grates to the catch basins to make removal difficult.
The city is stocking up on the grate covers, with Zoella saying 75 more have been ordered.
The city’s wastewater-department workers will continue to replace them, he said.
XThe NewsOutlet is a joint media venture by student and professional journalists and is a collaboration of Youngstown State University, WYSU radio and The Vindicator.