Beaufort News

Thieves steal three AC units from Habitat homes on St. Helena Island

LowCountry Habitat for Humanity volunteers had nearly completed new houses on St. Helena Island when they left the job site Thursday.

They returned the next day to discover each of the three homes' new air-conditioning units -- professionally installed just a day earlier -- had been stolen.Habitat officials and the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office seek information leading to the arrest of those responsible for stealing the units, which had an estimated value of $2,000 each.

Such units are targeted by thieves for the copper and aluminum elements, which can be sold as scrap metal, authorities say.

Though insurance will cover most of the cost to replace the units, the theft came as Habitat officials and volunteers were racing to finish the homes on Ernest Drive before an April 30 grant deadline, said Brenda Dooley, executive director of LowCountry Habitat for Humanity. The $50,000 grant covers the infrastructure costs of the homes, where work began in October to simultaneously build the three houses on one parcel.

"I think we're still going to meet the deadline, but it's going to be very close," Dooley said. "We plan to file a claim with our insurance company, and we'll have to pay our deductible, which is about the cost of one of the air-conditioners.

"It's just frustrating because our volunteers were working so hard to meet that grant deadline. It's a real setback, but we're not going to let it stop us."