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Springdale Police Suspect Teen Set Fire They Say It’s Possible Others Involved In Town Hall Blaze

Police say one or more teenagers may have been responsible for the apparent arson that destroyed the Springdale Town Hall July 1.

Stevens County Sheriff Craig Thayer said an investigation is focusing on “a person of interest who is a juvenile.” He and town Marshal Bob Lind declined to identify the suspect.

Thayer and Lind said investigators are still trying to determine whether more than one person was involved.

Although the fire is being investigated as an arson, officers are waiting for test results from the state crime lab before declaring a cause, Thayer said.

Two weeks before the suspicious fire, the town hall was burglarized by the 15-year-old grandson of a former Springdale councilman. The boy began serving a two-month sentence on Aug. 2 for breaking into the town hall and a nearby restaurant on June 18.

Thayer and Lind declined to comment on whether the boy is suspected in the town hall fire.

The boy pleaded guilty Aug. 5 in juvenile court to two counts of second-degree burglary. He said he took police equipment and other items from the town hall and beer and liquor from Geronimo’s Restaurant. In addition to two months detention, Judge Fred Stewart ordered the boy to perform 150 hours of community service.

Stewart sentenced the youth to 40 more hours of community service for being a minor in possession of alcohol on July 1.

Last September, the boy was assigned 10 days on a work crew and 40 hours of community service on a second-degree burglary conviction. He and another boy, now 17, broke into the Mary Walker School and the Jacobs Brothers service station in Springdale.

The 17-year-old pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal trespass and second-degree theft, and was sentenced to 48 hours of community service.

While the arson investigation continues, Mayor Ernie Gehrke and the town council are planning to replace the two mobile homes that served as town hall with a new modular office building. The council recently accepted a bid of approximately $120,000 for installation of a 2,100-square-foot modular office - with a fire sprinkler system.

Gehrke said work can begin as soon as the council decides where to put the building. The new quarters could be ready by the end of September, he said.

The mayor said he wants to move the town hall from a “secluded alley in the back part of town” to a more visible location on state Highway 231. But some council members fear the proposed city-owned site may not have enough room for parking.

Insurance will cover the cost of the new building plus equipment replacement and reconstruction of burned records from backup sources, Gehrke said. He speculated the total may be around $200,000.

Meanwhile, town officials are conducting business in the school district’s Head Start office.

, DataTimes