UPPER TWP. – On Sunday evening, residents in Upper Township say an electronic sign that is supposed to caution them about a changed traffic pattern in the area instead displayed an inappropriate, inaccurate, and offensive message along Route 49.
Ginny Chiappini lives along Route 49 and said, “It’s inappropriate for any kind of derogatory comments. Whether it be the road, or a sign, indicating to someone’s property…it’s just not appropriate.”
“Assville Next Left” is what the sign read Sunday night when one our NBC40 viewers drove by and took a picture. “I’m speechless really. I don’t know who would want to stop and do that. Somebody who’s not all there if you know what I mean,” explained Upper Township resident, Al Lund.
Officials with the New Jersey Department of Transportation say the “Portable Variable Message Sign” in the photo is a contractor board owned by South State Incorporated.
While it is unknown how or when the profane message was posted, officials with NJDOT released a statement saying: “The contractor removed the message last night as soon as it was notified of the vandalism. The department has reiterated to the contractor that the control boxes of all the PVMS must be secured with a lock to prevent vandalism.”
However, when an NBC40 reporter went to check out the message board Monday morning, the control box appeared to be unlocked and easily accessible.
Upper Township Mayor, Richard Palombo, explained, “It appears that it’s an isolated incident. Someone was trying to be funny, but I think the operators of the sign need to be more aware of the fact that the security and the access to that information needs to be more secure.”
The Mayor of Upper Township told NBC40 he thinks this whole situation could’ve been a lot worse. “I think what we are more concerned about is that someone was able to access it over the weekend. They could have put more explicit information on that sign. They could have put even some kind of racial slur, which is not tolerable in this township.”
Officials have not indicated whether the box was broken into, or left unsecured.
We reached out to South State Incorporated for a comment about the inappropriate message, but because of their contract with NJDOT, officials told us they declined to comment.