AUGUSTA — Police on Tuesday investigated the heist of eight large propane tanks that has resulted in thousands of dollars in losses and left at least three city businesses in the cold.

Business owners confirmed that at least six of the eight 100-gallon propane tanks had been filled within the past week. The tanks were stolen Monday night or Tuesday morning.

“We got to work and turned the heat on, and it wouldn’t come on,” said Pauline Nolan, owner of Wise Uniform at 171 Capitol St. Two tanks were stolen from the business. “Luckily, it wasn’t too cold today.”

Two tanks also were taken from the Children’s Discovery Museum, which rents space next door to the uniform shop.

The Mailing Center, at 126 Western Ave., which is across the parking lot from the Children’s Discovery Museum, is also missing two tanks, said store owner Keith McCray. He said two tanks attached to a vacant space next door also were taken.

“I don’t have the slightest idea how they did this,” said Marc Lacasse, president of Augusta Fuel Company, which serviced six of the eight tanks. “I can’t believe it — I really can’t, that someone would go to this length.”

McCray, Nolan and Children’s Discovery Museum Executive Director Valencia Shubert said their tanks had recently been filled.

Shubert said the theft would cost her museum at least $500.

“It’s a small nonprofit that’s working very hard to remain a vital part of this community,” Shubert said. “To have even a small blow like $500 is important to us.”

Augusta Police Sgt. Christopher Shaw said a report on the thefts was incomplete, but he said police were investigating.

Lacasse estimated that his company lost $3,000 worth of equipment, in addition to thousands of dollars in lost fuel for the customers.

“This is a first in the 23 years we’ve been in the propane business,” Lacasse said. “We don’t recall this ever happening to us.”

The thefts were particularly unusual in that the thieves cut the copper tubing to remove the tanks, but left most of the valuable copper in place.

“They just took the propane, which (police) thought was a little bit odd,” Shubert said. “They’ve seen more people taking the copper and leaving the tanks.”

Lacasse said each of the tanks weighs more than 400 pounds when full.

McCray said he discovered the tanks were missing when he got to the store and the heat didn’t go on.

“Somebody has a lot of muscle,” McCray said. “They had to have a truck with a tailgate (lift) or they had to have a boom truck.”

Nolan said the area around her building is well lighted. She hopes somebody saw something that will help the police investigation.

“You’d think you’d see somebody take that tank,” she said. “Right behind us, where the tanks were, there’s a house separated by a fence. It’s unbelievable. I couldn’t believe someone would do that.”

Craig Crosby–621-5642

[email protected]

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