RECKLESS crooks have stolen a mobile traffic light and smashed the solar panels on another one, creating a safety risk for Murray Valley Highway drivers travelling between Wodonga and Howlong.
The troublemakers struck about 3am yesterday at the intersection of the highway and the Barnawartha-Howlong Road.
The road is being realigned by Myrtleford earth-moving and bitumen sealing company GW & BR Crameri Pty Ltd at a cost of $800,000.
The firm’s project manager Janine Pregnell yesterday said a mobile traffic light facing towards Howlong had been dragged away and stolen, despite having wheel-and-nut locks. A smaller unit, aimed at traffic from Wodonga, had been severely damaged.
“They’ve dragged the one facing Howlong down the road and into a winery driveway, smashed the locks off and taken it from there,” Mrs Pregnell said.
“The one that is still here, they’ve smashed all the solar panels and they’ve basically made it useless.
“It’s extremely frustrating.
“They were both left there as a safety measure with the lights flashing amber for motorists travelling at night.”
The mobile lights are valued at up to $20,000.
Mrs Pregnell estimated she would have to spend $2000 to replace the solar panels.
Sen-Constable Andrew Deegan, of Chiltern, said the master unit light was registered — its Victorian number plate is T68032.
He said it was possible the thieves had dismantled the units with the batteries and solar panels off-loaded separately.
He said a farmer who lived nearby had heard loud noises about 3am, establishing the time of the theft after the unit was dragged into the driveway of Gehrig’s winery.
Earth-moving company founder Geoff Crameri was devastated, saying it was one of the worst instances of vandalism the family business had suffered.
“I feel sick,” Mr Crameri said.
“It disgusts you people do such a thing when you’re trying to protect them. You’re trying to let them know of changed traffic conditions and they do this.”
Mrs Pregnell said stop-go sign holders were directing traffic during the day, but the mobile traffic lights could no longer be used at night.
“You’re looking at about $15,000 to $20,000 for two units, — it’s too much money to have sitting around,” she said.
Four road signs, valued at $200 each, were stolen from the intersection a month ago.
Anybody with information is urged to phone Chiltern police on (03) 5726 1222.