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Generator theft during ice storm leads to jail time for two

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SCRTC had gas generators taken during emergency

By Linda Ireland

Last winter’s ice storm knocked out utilities, made roads treacherous and crippled communications across the state.

Workers spent countless hours trying to restore electricity, water and telephone service to many areas. South Central Rural Telephone Co., based in Glasgow, hooked gas generators to outdoor telephone boxes to make sure residents were able to call for assistance during the worst of the storm.

Dave Davis, director of operations for SCRTC, said six new generators were stolen from various locations in LaRue County during the crisis. Three were taken from one site at Mount Sherman.

The generators were chained to the boxes to recharge batteries that enable phone service. SCRTC employees “shuffled” the units in an attempt to maintain as many areas as possible.

“We don’t have permanent generators for each site,” Davis said.

“I don’t think people understand the impact (the theft) had on local fire departments or ambulance service,” he added. “(The generators) were the only way they had phone service to reach them.”

During the ice storm, even some cell phones were inoperable.

Two of the SCRTC generators – a Troy-Bilt and Briggs and Stratton valued at about $700 each – were installed at the intersection of Airline Road and Hawkins Road and on Brashear Road. The units were reported missing Feb. 2, 2009.

Last month, two men admitted their participation in the theft in LaRue Circuit Court.

Philip Dale Despain, 31, of Hodgenville pleaded guilty to complicity, theft by unlawful taking and complicity, receiving stolen property. He was sentenced to 12 months conditionally discharged for two years; and two years unsupervised probation. He is required to serve 30 days and pay a fine of $185. He was credited for eight days served.

Chad Alan Heath, 32, of Sonora pleaded guilty to theft by unlawful taking; complicity, receiving stolen property under $300; and falsely reporting an incident.

Court records indicate Heath reported his truck stolen Feb. 4 after a resident observed two men placing one of the generators in the truck bed. The vehicle was found abandoned on Lewis Lick Road.

Heath was sentenced to 12 months, conditionally discharged for two years and fined $185.

One of the generators was recovered and returned to SCRTC.

Davis said he appreciated the efforts of several LaRue Countians during the storm, including the resident who witnessed the Feb. 2 theft. He followed the truck used in the crime and reported the incident to officers.

“One guy guarded the generator (in his area),” he said. “He used his own gas – we provided gas cans. He knew how important it was to make certain service stayed up. It meant a lot to us that people were watching out for us.”

SCRTC serves about 30,000 residents.