MONTICELLO — A stray firework was the likely cause of a May 30 fire that burned a portion of a Monticello walk/bike trail, city council members learned Monday night.
The Piatt County sheriff's office investigation "yielded six individuals who were present or involved," said Richard Bowman, Monticello deputy police chief. He told aldermen Monday that apparently "one of the juveniles had some fireworks that he ignited and started a fire in dry grass under the trestle. They attempted to put it out, thought they did, and left."
Bowman said the youths returned a short time later.
"After an hour they (the juveniles) came back and it reignited. They stomped it out again, and left thinking they had extinguished it a second time," he added. The fire flared up a short time later, and firefighters were called at about 5:30 p.m. Personnel from the Mid-Piatt Fire Protection District and Monticello Fire and Rescue battled the fire several hours, and returned the next morning to extinguish some hot spots.
No arrests have been made in the case, but information has been forwarded to the Piatt County state's attorney for possible charges.
With the mystery of the cause apparently resolved, council members focused on replacement of the trestle and were told by Superintendent of City Services Floyd Alsop that damage was "closer to $50,000 than the $150,000 we previously thought."
The city has $105,500 budgeted this year to put asphalt on its two bike paths, and Allsop said a portion of that could be diverted to repair the trestle.
Other funding options could include restitution as part of possible criminal charges, or public donations or the city's insurance.
Allsop said the path is not on the official coverage list with its insurance carrier, but that "they are willing to work with us, since we are such a good customer."
Council members leaned toward beginning repairs immediately.
"I would be in favor of extending as soon as possible the money that we budgeted for the asphalt to get the bridge put back in place," said Alderman Tim Hayes.
Lyle Murdock added the city also needs to "get that bottom cleaned up, so this doesn't happen again."
Any fix will take time. Allsop said it took two to three months to obtain materials the first time the trail surface was installed on the railroad trestle.