Hope City Manager Catherine Cook and Hope Police Chief J. R. Wilson announced Friday the increase of a reward offered in connection with the investigation into an arson fire at the Northside Community Park Community Center here.
Hope City Manager Catherine Cook and Hope Police Chief J. R. Wilson announced today the increase of a reward offered in connection with the investigation into an arson fire at the Northside Community Park Community Center here. The $500 reward has been increased to $1,000, effective today, according to the announcement. The increased reward stems from a lack of information having been developed toward an arrest in the case, according to Cook and Wilson. The City is the sole sponsor of the reward, and it applies only to the resolution of the Feb. 13 arson fire at the Northside Community Center. “Persons with information should contact the Criminal Investigative Division Lieutenant Jimmy Courtney at 870-722-2560 or CID Sergeant Jesus Coronado at 870-722-2561,” Wilson said. Cook remained skeptical Friday concerning what appears on the surface to be limited damage to the building. “It's where I left it with the City Board last week,” she said. “I haven't had any more word from the architect.” Cook told the board in its March 5 meeting that depreciation costs applied to the building would dilute the effectiveness of the $38,000 insurance claim the City received in connection with the fire, which is about half of an initial recovery cost of about $62,000. The problem lies in whether the structural members supporting the building's roof at the front of the building were damaged by heat from the fire, and will render the building structurally unsound, Cook said. “We'll have to see if those wound up being structural kinds of things, which would mean we will have to have an engineering report on the building,” she said. “I know the adjuster and architect were both concerned about the steel purlins. “If it's just renovation such as paint and drywall; that's one thing,” Cook said. “Structural damage is another thing altogether.” The fire caused extensive damage to the kitchen area and burned upward into the attic and roof at the front of the building. Combined with water and smoke damage in other parts of the building, the fire compounded losses at the center which were the result of vandalism some two weeks earlier. The Jan. 29 incident resulted in video games being damaged or destroyed and the recreation area floor was flooded. The office area was also vandalized and a glass door broken to gain access to the building, a water fountain torn from the wall, a pool table damaged, a community park banner was damaged, and office doors were damaged as were closet doors. No arrests have been made in that incident. The arson fire at the Northside park was the first of two which occurred this year in Hope, the second coming March 5 when the former Fink and Co. building on South Hazel Street was destroyed by fire. Hope Fire Chief Dale Glanton has characterized that fire as arson, and HPD investigators were still working the case with little success Friday, according to HPD Assistant Chief Kim Tomlin. “We are still talking to some people, but we haven't reached anything conclusive,” Tomlin said.