Monticello offers reward in bridge fire

Monticello aldermen are offering a $1,000 reward to help them get to the bottom of a May 23 fire that heavily damaged about 160 feet of the city's west-side walking trail that crosses the Sangamon River.

The money will be awarded for tips that lead to the arrest and conviction of persons connected with the blaze, which destroyed a portion of the trestle that leads to the bridge that crosses the river.

Tips should be referred to the Piatt County sheriff's office at 762-7822 or the Monticello Police Department at 762-7727.

City Superintendent of Services Floyd Allsop told the city council on Tuesday evening that natural causes have pretty much been ruled out, which limits the causes to arson or an accident such as a stray match.

Allsop also said the fire may not have caused as much damage as previously thought.

"It just appears to me there are more supports that could be salvaged than I originally thought. But it's still a lot of work, and it's going to be pricey," he said.

A structural engineer will have the final say on just what needs replaced, but Allsop pegged the cost of repairs at $100,000 or more, depending on whether city employees can do the work.

Alderman Bill Mitze suggested the idea of a reward, and the measure passed unanimously.

Allsop said the fire started on the east end of the trestle, and once it hit the creosote-treated railroad ties that make up the deck, "it really took off." He said about 164 feet of the trestle was damaged, but that the iron bridge itself was not.

The city is not sure if insurance will cover repair costs. If not, the $110,000 budgeted to surface two city trails will likely be diverted to rebuild the west-side trail.

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