HYDE PARK — Residents of the 5800 block of South Blackstone Avenue received an "official" message from Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office regarding an open manhole.
After a manhole near the corner of South Blackstone Avenue and East 59th Street was covered with wood, an anonymous prankster posted a phony sign over the manhole informing residents the make-shift cover was the best they were going to get.
"After several months of careful review, we have decided that a few crappy pieces of wood hastily nailed together and light enough for any curious eight-year-old boy to move is sufficient to guarantee everyone's safety," stated the letter, which bore Emanuel's signature.
The manhole is situated near the sidewalk just east of the University of Chicago's International House. On Friday, neighbors said the phony sign had been there for at least a week, and most said they got a kick out of the joke.
"I think it's so funny," Hyde Park resident Jan Deckenbach said. "It's nice to see humor as opposed to outrage as a response."
Deckenbach said she doubts the city will even notice the sign, much less feel compelled to take action because of it.
"Judging by how they respond to other requests, I don't think so," Deckenbach said with a smile.
The letter on the sign, dated September 4, informed passers-by the "Chicago Department of Manhole Covers" and its 300 workers is "severely understaffed" and would not replace the wood with cover.
"It will remain exactly like this from now on and forever," the letter stated.
While there is no "Department of Manhole Covers," city officials said Friday the department of water management is responsible for replacing manhole covers and, after hearing about the curious sign, said it was investigating.
However, the manhole may not even belong to the city, officials said. Other entities, such as Comcast, also own and operate manholes in Chicago.
Also, the city has had to deal the issue of people stealing manhole covers and selling them for scrap, so a cover may not be immediately replaced if a culprit can be tracked down.
The phony sign, emblazoned with two City of Chicago seals, also warns readers that removing the "official" sign can carry "a penalty of two years in prison and a fine of $300,000."
While that's not true, according to the city's municipal code, the prankster could get in trouble if discovered.
Fraudulently using the city's seal can carry a whopping fine of up to $200.