Feb 19, 2009 Martha E. Conway Uncategorized
The air in the parking lot of Sullivan Park off Lake Street in the village of Chittenango still smelled of smoke this morning. The odor is about all that remains of one of the Sullivan Parks & Recreation Office’s most popular pavilions.
Firefighters were called to the scene at about 8:05 p.m. Tuesday night. A Forbes Avenue resident saw flames rising from the park and called the fire in, said Chittenango Police Chief Jeffrey Paul. According to Parks & Recreation Director Justin Pokines, when fire crews arrived on the scene, the structure had already collapsed.
“It went up really fast,” Pokines said.
Dep. Jay Pokorny, an evidence technician with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, said electrical problems have been eliminated, but investigators still are working the case.
“I think it’s pretty safe to say human hands probably played a part [in the fire],” Pokorny said.
The pavilion sits on a hill overlooking a stream and lawns that span park. That stream separates the pavilion site from the parking area, a walkway over a culvert providing the only vehicular access to the site.
Fire Chief Michael Sudol of the Chittenango Fire Department said the remote location did not hinder firefighting efforts.
“Training exercises like Jeff Geer’s rural water supply drill two years ago help us prepare for things like this,” Sudol said.
Sudol said prevailing winds also were in favor of firefighters’ ability to save the trees that envelope the area. He said, though, that the trees and hilly terrain that make the park such a uniquely beautiful area also reduces visibility there.
“Because of the topography, this fire was well ahead of us before we were ever called,” Sudol said.
Pokines said the structure is insured for $6,400, but the town has a $1,000 deductible. He said he would have to find that money somewhere in his budget and ask the council to do a budget modification during an upcoming meeting.
“It’s the town’s policy to prosecute people who destroy taxpayer property to the fullest extent of the law,” said Supervisor John M. Becker. “We’re not going to tolerate it. After that, we leave it up to the judicial system.”
Becker said he would request the courts consider restitution and community service as part of any sentencing arrangement when the responsible parties are identified.
At the regular town board meeting held about 12 hours after the fire, Pokines asked the Sullivan Town Council to expedite the planning of a replacement building, as reservations for the facility begin March 2.
“We have to fast-track this because it’s got to be online by the end of June,” Pokines said.
The pavilion, built in the 1970s by volunteers from several civic organizations, is the staging area for the Parks & Recreation-sponsored summer concert series and the site of its annual egg hunt, attended by hundreds of local children.
Pokines said an emergency meeting of the park board has been called for next week. He said since the department had been playing with the idea of incorporating a concert area there, designs to renovate the site may be in the offing.
“I don’t think we can re-do this project with volunteers this time on such short notice,” Pokines said. “We likely won’t be able to begin construction until May, depending on weather. That’s a pretty tight window of time.”
Paul said the investigation was turned over to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, as the park is town property. He said his department patrols the park and addresses small incidents there, writing appearance tickets for the Sullivan Town Court.
“It’s sad, because this is something that’s there for everybody’s benefit,” Paul said.