WEST PARIS — Town officials are pleading for the return of a stolen welcome sign, which once greeted motorists to the community.
The roughly three-foot by three-foot sign near the town line with Sumner on Route 219 was first reported missing Monday, but may have disappeared “several weeks ago,” Town Manager John White said.
Both the sign, which reads “Welcome to West Paris: The gem of Western Maine” and the wooden posts staking it into the ground are considered stolen.
The last confirmed sighting of the sign is unknown. News the items had been removed surfaced after the spouse of a town employee called the town. In talks with homeowners living nearby, White said a few people heard a disturbance one evening about a month ago, but no one had more information.
“Town officials are very concerned and quite ticked off. I’m betting it was pranksters. It just amazes me they’d take the posts too,” he said.
Noticing there were no official signs welcoming motorists to the town, in 2010, resident Hunter Rowell installed three signs for his Eagle Scout project as a way to give back to the community. Additional signs mark the border on Route 26 at the Paris-West Paris town line and on the Woodstock-West Paris line.
White estimated the cost to replace the sign at a “couple hundred” dollars but hoped someone would return it. The Oxford County Sheriff’s Office has been notified.
“It’s important to us. The Scout rightly put out that going into town you see the town line sign but nothing making you remember West Paris,” White said.
Hunter, who now works at the Guy E. Rowe school, said his spirits sank after hearing word of the theft and checking out the site himself.
“I wanted to give back to the community, working to get the donations and project in place. Coming home from work and seeing it gone is tough,” he said.
Already, though, he’s determined to rebuild, saying he’s drawn up a shopping list for the supplies and hopes the community will rally behind him.
“It’s unfortunate, but I’m proud of West Paris. If they want to keep taking the signs, I’ll keep making them,” Rowell said.