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ARSON SUSPECTED IN PARK FIRE

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$1,000 reward offered

By Bryan Marshall

Arson appears to be the cause of an early morning fire May 21 that destroyed the field house/concession stand at Bobby Gibson Memorial Field at Grant County Park in Crittenden.

A $1,000 reward from the Kentucky State Arson Task Force is available for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the suspect(s).

Grant County Parks and Recreation director Tabatha Clemons, staff and interns, along with community volunteers, spent the day following the fire passing out flyers door-to-door to communities surrounding the park to notify people about the reward.

“My focus has now turned to, we need to catch the people who did this,” Clemons said. “If we don’t, then it’s just going to continue. We have to put our foot down and we have to work together with law enforcement and community members, and we have to figure out who did this. It’s not acceptable. They should have to pay for what they did.”

When a parks employee mowed the field around 6:30 a.m., the structure where the Grant County Little League runs its operations was not in flames.

“We suspect it may have been smoldering for a while,” said Clemons. “The building had been broken into. (The workers) did not realize it at the time because the doors were shut, but we found items that we know were in the building throughout the park. Those have been taken into evidence.”

A garbage barrel also was set on fire in a different area of the park and the suspect(s) cut a screen on Clemons’ office door to try to get inside.

Crittenden and Dry Ridge fire departments responded to the scene.

Crews were at the park for about an hour and a half to extinguish the fire and investigate, said Crittenden Fire Chief Lee Burton, who added that the incident is tentatively considered to be an arson investigation.

The Kentucky State Police is in charge of the investigation.

Inside the field house were more than 300 T-shirts the league was selling to raise money, along with trophies, programs, Coca-Cola products, concessions and other equipment, said Jamey Lewis, Grant County Little League commissioner.

“It’s pretty bad,” Lewis said. “It’s kind of disheartening to see all the hard work you do and see somebody do this is unbelievable.”

The Little League has moved some older division games to Williamstown’s Mullins Field and some to Piddle Park in Dry Ridge.

T-ball and rookie machine pitch leagues will not be impacted and will still have their games in the back of the park.

“We have a larger issue than just the building,” Clemons said. “It burned up electric poles and electric lines. It even bled over to the transformer. So, there’s electrical issues that are going to have to be addressed before we can start considering rebuilding. I think the baseball board, myself and the fiscal court will probably want to meet and talk about what we want to do and if we want to rebuild it the same way or do something a little different.”

The parks and recreation department will do its best to get the area cleaned up and free of nails and other debris so the league can resume playing on the field, said Clemons, who added that power to the lights and scoreboard were impacted by the fire.

Lewis said it is best for players and families to keep in touch with their coaches and check the league’s website for any schedule changes.

“My biggest thing was, even though us adults are up there, running the league benefiting the children and to see all the sponsorships going into the league, this is here for them,” Lewis said about the players. “The press box area, a lot of them would like to get up there between games to watch them keep score. They just thought that was a neat thing to see and now it is gone.”

Clemons said she has already contacted the Kentucky Association of Counties, which handles the county’s insurance.

Lewis said the league also has insurance through Little League International to help out.

Several people have already reached out offering donations to the league as well.

Anyone who wants to donate money or help out in anyway, can call 859-428-0781 and leave a message or can mail donations to: Grant County Little League (GCLL) P.O. Box 345, Dry Ridge, KY 41035.

Those responsible for the fire have upset an entire community who enjoy coming to the park to watch Little League games, said Clemons.

“I’ve been through a full-range of emotions,” she said. “You see how hard the volunteers of the Little League board work and they were here and their heart was broken. Then, at the same time, they’re encouraging me and I’m encouraging them that we’re going to pick up and go on. We’re not going to stop having Little League. It’s important for these kids to have baseball.”

Anyone with information about the fire can call the Kentucky State Arson Task Force at 1-800-272-7766, Kentucky State Police at 428-1212, Crittenden Fire Chief Lee Burton at 468-4848 or Grant County Parks and Recreation at 428-4500.