Metro-East News

Suspect uses track hoe to steal $50 in coins — and does thousands of dollars worth of damage

Track hoe tears up car wash for small change

Easy Street Auto Wash owner Bill Spiller talks about the damage to his business when a thief stole track hoe from Baxmeyer Construction and drove it a half mile just to get at the change from his car wash.
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Easy Street Auto Wash owner Bill Spiller talks about the damage to his business when a thief stole track hoe from Baxmeyer Construction and drove it a half mile just to get at the change from his car wash.

When David Baxmeyer heard that one of his pieces of heavy equipment had been taken from a construction area and moved a half-mile early Sunday morning, he couldn’t believe it.

Not only was an 80,000-pound track hoe moved from a road-widening project near the intersection of Green Mount Road and Cambridge Boulevard, but whoever took it tried to use the machine to break into some coin machines at the Easy Street Car Wash, 650 U.S. 50. O’Fallon police said the culprit was able to get into one coin machine, but the person also damaged the building in the process.

“It’s mind-boggling how it got there,” said Baxmeyer, who is president of the Waterloo-based Baxmeyer Construction. “Whoever did it had to know what they were doing.”

The burglary took place about 5 a.m. Sunday. Baxmeyer said it probably took at least 20 minutes to get the machine from the job site to the car wash.

“It wasn’t like he went down (U.S.) 50 either,” Baxmeyer said.

Easy Street Car Wash owner Bill Spiller said his coin machines are emptied every day — meaning about the machines were wiped of most of their money only 12 hours before the thief in a track hoe arrived. He estimates the thief made off with about $50.

“The owner (of the track hoe) told us the person could have torn down the whole building in a pile on the ground,” Spiller said. “...We are very blessed that they were not intelligent enough to do this right, and we are very blessed that there was a guy walking that stopped him.”

Spiller said he has no official estimate on the cost of the damage, but he expects there will be thousands of dollars worth of repairs.

“I will tell you, it’s going to cost us a lot more than they would have ever got from the facility,” Spiller said.

Capt. Jim Cavins said O’Fallon police were gathering surveillance footage from area residents and businesses in an attempt to identify the person responsible. O’Fallon recently started a program where citizens could register their home surveillance systems with police. Cavins encouraged anyone who may have seen anything to contact police.

Cavins was unsure of the route the driver took to get from the work site to the car wash. He was unaware of any damage to any of the town’s roads.

However, Spiller said the track hoe shattered some of the concrete on his business’ property that slopes down into the city street.

Baxmeyer said the machine was locked. He said the person responsible for moving it had to have had a key in order to operate the machine. The person tried to use the scoop on the front of the machine to knock the coin machine off the side of the building. In the process of doing that, the person wound up hitting the roof of the structure.

While there was some damage to the car wash, including the roof, the track hoe was not damaged. Baxmeyer said he had to call a trailer to get the machine moved back to the work site Sunday.

“Fortunately nobody got hurt,” Spiller said. “The structure took some damage — anything with block and wood, it’s not a big deal. I hate that they did it because it is hard enough to run a business — just the everyday things, you know? Now I am dealing with this.”

He said he has been a business owner since 1986 and has never heard of anything like this happening. He bought the Easy Street Car Wash in March 2016. He had plans to remodel portions of the building this spring.

Spiller said the thief’s actions has sped up those plans.

“If you get bitter, who hurts? This guy doesn’t think about who I am or where this puts me,” Spiller said.

He added the car wash is open for business — a building inspector deemed the structure safe in its current state on Monday.

“I wish he would have worked this hard looking for a job, because if he had done that we wouldn’t be here today,” Spiller said. “I am not going to lose my joy or pride over him being a fool.”

This is not an advertisement for Baxmeyer Construction, but a search to find out who tried to steal our trackhoe and...

Posted by David Baxmeyer on Sunday, February 26, 2017

Don O’Brien: 618-239-2626, @DOBrienBND