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Copper gutters stolen from PenMar office building

September 22, 2006|by TARA REILLY

CASCADE - PenMar Development Corp. employees noticed something odd about the corporation's office building when they arrived at work several weeks ago.

After a closer inspection, they realized the building at the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base known as "the castle" was missing its gutters.

A drive around the base revealed that the gutters and downspouts were missing from five other buildings, including some of the property's historic stone buildings.

The items were a target because they were copper, PenMar officials said.

"Copper is very expensive these days, and that's what these things are made of," PenMar board Chairman George Griffin said Thursday.

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PenMar Executive Director Rich Rook estimated the loss to be about $50,000. He's not sure when the theft occurred, but he said that it might have been in late July or early August.

"Someone came on the property when we weren't around and our security wasn't around and decided they'd help themselves to some of the copper that was on the buildings," Rook said.

PenMar has security to keep an eye on the base, but it isn't 24-hour coverage, Rook said.

The theft could have happened at night or over the weekend, he said.

"We suspect it didn't happen while we were here," Rook said.

PenMar is offering a $500 reward to anyone who has information leading to the arrest and conviction of the thief, Washington County Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said.

Wivell is a PenMar board member.

PenMar was created by the state in 1997 to redevelop the former base, which shut down in 1998.

Rook said it's not uncommon for copper to be stolen, especially from construction sites.

He thinks whoever is responsible probably sold the copper.

Griffin said the copper then could have been melted and used for other products.

PenMar plans to replace the missing gutters and downspouts on buildings for which it is responsible, and the Army will be responsible for the others, Rook said.

Rook said the Washington County Sheriff's Department is investigating the theft and that police have suspects.

Those handling the case at the Sheriff's Department were not available for comment Thursday afternoon.

"We think we know where they went," Griffin said of the gutters and downspouts. "We think we know who did it too, but proving it is very hard."

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