Business owners in Jericho say the state of Vermont stole from them, but officials say they are simply enforcing a decades-old law.
Vermont’s sign law has been in effect since at least the 1970’s. On state highways, the interstate and limited access roads, signs must be posted at least 25 feet from the center line. In some places, it’s up to 33 feet.
Dave Blackmore, a Department of Transportation district administrator, says the signs can pose a safety hazard if they obstruct the view for drivers or are blown into the road.
“Folks don’t understand what we’re tasked with,” he said. “I don’t take that personally. I don’t think any of our employees take that personally. They see something missing and immediately they think someone took it.”
But the law still catches business owners by surprise.
When Paul Metruk’s sign in front of his business went missing, he thought it was neighborhood kids pulling a prank.
“I never would have believed that the state’s stealing from us,” said Metruk, who owns Mountain High Pizza Pie on Route 15 in Jericho.
“We need all the advertising out on the road that we can get,” said Metruk.
Last Friday, he noticed his sandwich board sign had disappeared. He called around neighboring businesses and discovered it happened to others in town too. He eventually found out it was VTrans that had removed the signs.
Metruk says the sign cost at least $150 and is very important to his business.
“We need to move a lot of pizzas to pay the bills and when they’re taking our sign on the busiest night of the week, it hurts,” he explained. “The ironic part is that they can legally drive around, steal your property and we’re basically paying them to do it to us.”
Blackmore said crews go out usually on Mondays and Fridays, sometimes sweeping entire areas to pick up signs. Bsigns are taken to district garages. Owners have 30 days to pick them up before they’re thrown away.
“We want to try do our best to try and communicate with property owners. We don’t like to surprise them however there’s only enough time in the day to do this,” said Blackmore.
Property owners can also call their VTrans district office to find out exactly where the right-of-way line is on their property.