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Teen Charged In Town Hall Fire Boy Is Grandson Of Springdale Councilman, Former Mayor

The grandson of former Springdale mayor and councilman Ray Turner was charged Thursday with burning down the town hall this summer.

James S. Clark, 15, was charged in Stevens County Juvenile Court with second-degree arson and second-degree burglary.

No trial date has been set.

Turner declined to comment on the charges against his grandson.

Clark already is serving a two-month sentence in the Yakima County Juvenile Detention Center for an earlier break-in at Springdale Town Hall.

He recently pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree burglary for breaking into town offices and a nearby restaurant on June 18. Clark stole police equipment from the town hall, and beer and liquor from Geronimo’s Restaurant.

Stevens County Sheriff Craig Thayer and Springdale Marshal Bob Lind offered no explanation for why they think Clark broke into the town hall a second time and burned it.

The new charges were filed after officers interviewed the suspect in Yakima.

Clark is locked up in Yakima because Stevens County has no juvenile jail and others in northeastern Washington are full.

Hours before the town hall burned July 1, Clark was convicted of being a minor in possession of alcohol. He was sentenced to 40 hours of community service.

Last September, Clark got 10 days on a work crew when he pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary. He and another teenage boy broke into the Mary Walker School and the Jacob Brothers service station in Springdale.

Damages from the fire in the town hall - actually a pair of adjacent mobile homes - is estimated at about $200,000. The structures, which included a branch office of Northeastern Washington Rural Resources, will be replaced with a new modular building.

Mayor Ernie Gehrke said insurance will cover the entire cost.

Clark’s grandfather was mayor of Springdale for eight years until he was narrowly defeated in a contentious 1993 election.

The race between Turner and Gehrke, who was a councilman at the time, focused on a dispute between Turner and former town Marshal Jerry Taylor. Taylor accused Turner - owner of the Pow Wow Tavern - of trying to curtail enforcement of drunken driving laws.

Gehrke won the election, but the balance of power on the council shifted from Taylor’s supporters to Turner’s and Turner was appointed to the council seat Gehrke vacated. Last fall, though, voters replaced Turner and one of his allies with a pair of Gehrke supporters.

, DataTimes