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College, City work to curb wire theft

Thieves have been stripping Auburn's street light junction boxes, darkening streets, costing the City thousands of dollars to repair.

Now the City of Auburn and Green River Community College are working together to fight the growing scourge of copper wire thefts here in Auburn.

"We've looked at several options to help prevent the thefts and come up with an idea that utilizes Green River Community College's commercial welding program," Lewis said.

The thieves method has been to open junction boxes, cutt the splices and rip out wire from box to box. Each junction contains three wires that run about 100-150 feet through an underground conduit to the next junction box.

College students and public works mentors are welding the boxes shut to deter further theft. In one week the students welded 1,117 of the 3,500 to 4,500 junction boxes throughout the city and expect to secure them all in the next three to five weeks.

David Ornsbey, the City's street/vegetation manager, said the program began in early October.

"We've agreed to a week-on, week-off schedule to give our employees time to do other City projects and to allow students to fulfill their classroom obligations," Ornsbey said.

Scott Schreiber, who directs GRCC's welding program, said the opportunity for students to work side-by-side with City crews is invaluable.

"This is the first time field mentorships have been offered," Schreiber said. "The experience is something we can't duplicate in the classroom, and we greatly appreciate the partnership with the City of Auburn."

Lewis called it "a win-win situation."

"This is a wonderful example of the City working together with outside organizations to solve a community problem. We're glad to share our expertise with Green River Community College," Lewis said.

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