Each of the estimated 1,200 road signs maintained by the county's public works department is being examined and cataloged, the Davis County Commission was told this week.

The survey is part of the department's program of maintaining and upgrading the county's road signs, including stop, directional, street and speed limit markers.Public Works Director Sid Smith said part of the reason for the emphasis on sign maintenance is to keep the county out of expensive lawsuits. Government entities in other parts of the country have been found liable in some suits and ordered to pay millions of dollars in damage awards, Smith said.

Smith and sign maintenance program director Joe Mark said the county's program emphasizes keeping a detailed inventory of the county's signs, responding quickly when a sign is reported to be missing, and a detailed record of sign maintenance.

"If the Sheriff's Department reports a sign is missing, especially if it's an important one like a stop sign at a busy intersection, we have someone out there immediately, even if it's the middle of the night," Smith said.

In cases like that, a deputy will stay at the site if possible and direct traffic until the repair is made, Smith said.

"It's a lot cheaper in the long run to pay out a few dollars now for a maintenance and inventory program than millions later on in a lawsuit," Smith said.

Smith said part of the new emphasis on maintaining signs has come from the county's risk manager, deputy attorney Jerry Hess.

Davis County is recognized as a leader in the field, according to Smith, and Mark has been asked to present the county's program at the state's annual traffic school for public works employees, held in St. George.

Something new that motorists driving through the county will see is plastic instead of metal post reflectors on the side of roads, Mark said, showing commissioners one of the new models.

The white plastic posts, with a yellow reflector on top, are flexible and when hit by a vehicle will bend. That will prevent damage to both the sign and the vehicle, he said.

Reports on missing or damaged signs can be made to the county's road shops, telephone 451-3260.