This past Monday morning, Rodney Mays assembled his crew on the southern interior of the Graham Square so that his company, Matrix Demolition, could knock down the old law enforcement center there.

The job was contracted at a substantial discount to Young County at $28,700 for the entirety. It’s what’s known informally in the demolition industry as a salvage job. Basically, Mays and his crew will separate any scrap metals of value from the other building materials and sell them all for about $20,000, he estimated.

The salvage aspect of this job is the reason his company is able to do it cheaply. Without the scrap metal component, Young County would have paid closer to $50,000, give or take, for the demolition. About five miles down Highway 16 that same Monday morning, Brett Manahl walked into the new Valew plant that used to be Steel Stadiums.

It was early in the morning, and he was planning on testing several prospective welders that day for immediate hire. Instead, as he walked through the several thousand square foot facility, he saw evidence everywhere of damaged heavy equipment with internal metal wiring cut out of it, copper pipes ripped out of the walls, trash strewn about the plant floor and busted open tool chests, all of them missing their tools. A large spool of copper wiring was missing, and truck tire skids dirtied the concrete platform near a hangar-sized conveyor door.

Manahl’s employees are not allowed to drive on that platform.

On the side of one of the gargantuan, corrugated metal walls, he noticed a panel was missing. The burglars had neatly unscrewed a section of the wall to create an access point. Manahl called the Sheriff’s department, who is still working the case, and as he continued assessing the burglary, it became apparent that the primary agenda of the perpetrators was scrap metal.

He said that was obvious because they left behind equipment that was far more valuable than the wiring and metal they had stolen.

It was an all too familiar crime scene for Graham on a much grander scale than usual. Young County Commissioner Matt Pruitt said that he doesn’t know what to do about the problem, but that it’s not a new one.

“I’m really not sure how to stop the problem, but really the only way I can see to stop this is regulation, which isn’t really fair to the people who do it legally,” Pruitt said. “Most of the metal yards now have video cameras and photograph people selling the metal. But we all know the type of people behind this are the ones looking for the next fix.”

Read the entire story in this weekend's Graham Leader.