Investigators believe weekend mischief north of Vancleave sparked a fire that destroyed some important equipment. And Jackson County Road Manager Joe O'Neal is fired up.
A track hoe once used for cleaning up roadways and building bridges is now useless. The melted insulation, shattered glass and charred doors add up to one big mess.
"$145,000 of the tax payers money up in smoke," O'Neal says.
O'Neal believes that over the weekend, the track hoe was ignited by vandals. Investigators have no motive, no evidence, and no leads - yet.
"I've never seen anything that looks this bad. Worse incident since I've been with the county," O'Neal says.
Dirt in the undercarriage is fresh. That's because it was just used on Friday. Now the only thing the track hoe will be used for is scrap metal.
"The machine is completely destroyed, there's no way to repair it, no way to do anything with it but scrap it and start over," O'Neal says.
The salvageable remains will be auctioned off, but aren't worth much. The worst part? Replacing the machine is going to cost everyone in Jackson County.
"It affects every taxpayer of Jackson County who's going to have to pay taxes and it's spent on another machine that we wouldn't have had to replace for another 10 or 15 years," O'Neal says.
So instead of helping to rebuild the county, this toasted track hoe will be cleaning out your pockets.
"It makes me feel sick that someone would do this. Stretching the county dollar as far as we can, it makes me sick," O'Neal says.
Another tractor that was on the property with the trackhoe was also vandalized. Someone tried to fill the fuel tank with dirt. If you have any information on this case, please call the Jackson County Sheriff's Department at (228) 769-3063.