JOSEPH — An as-of-yet unknown perpetrator vandalized the payment box outside of Joseph City Hall over the weekend leaving inside a seasoned steak covered with what appeared to be dog feces.

City Administrator Larry Braden said Monday, Feb. 8, that a city resident was about to drop off a utility bill payment Saturday and discovered the vandalism. The resident called the Wallowa County Sheriff’s Office and Deputy Paul Pagano responded. The deputy placed “biohazard” stickers on the payment box, covered it with police tape and contacted Braden, who also covered it with a plastic bag for the weekend.

“It’s definitely a display they built. It’s not just vandalism,” Braden said. “They had a statement to make. They’re trying to say something, but we’re not sure what. It surely wasn’t a case of 'let’s put some dog poop in there because it’s funny.'”

Braden said Monday he expected to have the payment box cleaned and sanitized by later in the day. But other cautions were to be taken.

“I want to talk to Stacey Karvoski, with disease control at the hospital, to see if they want to test it for COVID and see what their thoughts are,” he said.

Until the box is back in order, city residents with bills to pay were urged to come inside City Hall.

Braden said the likelihood of catching the perpetrator is low, from his experience. Previous cases of vandalism have yielded no suspects, he said.

“This is not the first time the payment box was vandalized,” Braden said.

About two years ago, someone put old fish heads inside. There also was the case early in last year’s COVID-19 pandemic when anti-tourism signs were placed around town and an attempt to alter one major sign was made.

Braden said he may suggest to the City Council that the payment box be replaced with a type that would prevent vandalism, such as one with a simple slot for payment envelopes.

Sheriff’s office representatives were unavailable for comment.

Braden said the vandalism caused no real monetary damage, although some payments in the box at the time could’ve been contaminated. If that is the case, City Hall will reach out to those who made the payments and ask them to resubmit them.

“It’s really disappointing,” Braden said. “Most people love living here and have more respect. It’s embarrassing.”

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