Photo: the blank spot on the lower left of the building shows where once a historic cornerstone plaque listing the date of construction—1922—of the old Fort Bayard Medical Center hospital.  Theft  over the weekend claimed the bronze plaque. The state of the paint and stucco on the building show the sad deterioration of a site important to the history of Grant County.

This time, vandalism claimed a significant bit of history. Someone over the weekend pried loose and carried away the bronze cornerstone plaque from the old Fort Bayard Medical Center hospital.

Fort  Bayard Historic Preservation Society President Cecilia Bell said the plaque was in place Saturday morning. She said the date of construction of the facility, 1922, was prominent on the plaque, and it also had U.S. Military Veterans written in bronze on the plaque.

According to New Mexico state statute 18-6-9. Cultural property ; unauthorized excavation, injury or destruction; criminal damage to property.  
A. Any person who knowingly excavates, injures or destroys cultural property located on state land without a permit is guilty of criminal damage to property.   
B.   Any person who solicits, employs or counsels another person to excavate, injure or destroy cultural property located on state land without a permit is guilty of criminal damage to property.   
C.   Whoever commits criminal damage to property pursuant to the provisions of this section and the value of the property excavated, injured or destroyed is:   
(1)   less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) is guilty of a petty misdemeanor and shall be sentenced according to the provisions of Section 31-19-1 NMSA 1978; or   
(2)   one thousand dollars ($1,000) or more is guilty of a fourth degree felony and shall be sentenced according to the provisions of Section 31-18-15 NMSA 1978.   
A.      History: 1978 Comp., § 18-6-9, enacted by Laws 1993, ch. 176, § 8.

As the likely value of the plaque is more than $1,000, the person responsible could be charged with fourth degree felony.

If you visit flea markets, scrap yards or other places where someone may seek to gain monetarily from this theft, please keep an eye out and, if the plaque is spotted, call 911.

A Grant County Sheriff's Department officer was at the scene of the theft and said he would make a report. As Fort Bayard is state property, the investigation may be turned over to State Police.

Anyone interested in becoming involved in the preservation and development of Fort Bayard should attend a meeting of the Fort Bayard Restoration and Development Coalition at 1:30 p.m.  Thursday, July 18, at Watts Hall. A partner organization in the coalition is the Fort Bayard Historic Preservation Society, which holds monthly meetings the second Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Express. More information can be found at www.fortbayard.org

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