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Park board offers $5,500 reward in mill fire...

The Kenmare Park Board announced it is offering a reward of $5,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever was responsible for the Jan. 13 fire that nearly destroyed the Danish Mill in downtown Kenmare.

4/16/19 (Tue)

The Kenmare Park Board announced it is offering a reward of $5,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever was responsible for the Jan. 13 fire that nearly destroyed the Danish Mill in downtown Kenmare.

Just after 6 that Sunday morning, an eyewitness saw somebody running away from the mill as it caught fire. The fire marshal later investigated and determined it was arson, a Class B felony that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Park Board President Arlen Gartner has been working with various people and agencies to get the reward finalized.

“The park board is trying to do everything it can to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Gartner said. “We don’t ever want this to happen again. I don’t understand what would possess somebody to do something like this.”

Gartner said anyone who has tips should call them in to the Kenmare Police Department or the Ward County Sheriff’s Department. Both departments are leading the investigation into the early Sunday morning blaze.

The Kenmare Police Department can be reached at 385-4411 and the Ward County Sheriff’s Department can be reached at 857-6500.

According to the Kenmare Police Department, a single individual was seen running away from the mill and attempted to enter Beer Bob’s tavern on southside square.

The suspect then proceeded eastbound on Division Street and after further investigation, it was learned the individual was last seen running down the alley between Central Avenue Sinclair and the former Super Valu building.

Police Chief Allisha Britton said in a statement, “We will continue to pursue leads and we are asking for the public’s help.”

It is the thinking of the park board that someone other than the eyewitness who spotted the person running away from the scene, was in the general vicinity at the same time.

Six o’clock on Sunday morning in mid January is normally pretty quiet, but there are people who live in the downtown area, a person delivering newspapers may have been around, merchants may have been on their way to their businesses for something, or even they clergy may have been getting ready for their Sunday sermon.

“The reward is for the arrest and conviction,” Gartner said a second time. “We’re going to do everything we can to bring this person(s) to justice.”

The good news in this case is that sometime this summer, the Danish Mill is going to look better than it did before the fire.

A lot of renovation work will have to be done, but the board has insurance money in hand, along with private donations to pay for materials and labor.

Gartner said restoration should get started sometime in May.

“They will be soda blasting on the inside to remove all the soot from the fire,” he said. “After that, the individual will remove all the wood that was damaged and Gravesen Electric will redo the electrical.”

Following that, the board wants to paint the mill.

“Yes, it will be red,” Gartner quipped. “We’ll have to add some shakes and all the windows will be replaced.”

Insurance money of up to $23,898 will take care of most of the renovation, but the soda blasting will cost $12,000 just by itself. A check for $19,715 has already been received.

“I don’t know what it will cost to take care of the entire mill,” Gartner said. “It’s $12,000 for the soda blasting and that has to be done first.”

Gartner said there is a private donation fund that has reached $3,247. He thanked everyone who chipped in, adding that money will help a great deal.

People may still donate to the fund in any amount and Gartner said they may remain anonymous if they choose.

Checks may be sent to Danish Mill Repair Project, PO Box 816, Kenmare, ND 58746.

When the repairs are completed, Gartner said the park board is interested in installing motion lights so if there is suspicious activity in the future, it will be more easily detected by the police on their beat, or anyone who might be driving by at the time.

The Danish Mill is THE tourist attraction in downtown Kenmare with hundreds of people seeing it each year. Promotional photos are taken there, it is used for a back drop for events in the park and visitors enjoy reading the history of the mill and stepping inside to see how it was done back in the day.

The fire struck a nerve in this community of 1,000. It isn’t anybody’s, but it’s everybody’s mill. Thus, if the arsonist had a grudge against someone, he didn’t just aggravate that person, but the entire community of Kenmare.

The Danish Mill is downtown. It represents Kenmare on the state and sometimes national stage. It is a landmark that keeps the history of the Danish immigrants to this area alive and it shows that with proper care, a building can last more than 100 years and still look good.

What it doesn’t do is identify who lit it on fire and that’s why the police are asking for help, and it’s why the park board has now offered this four-digit reward.

“We want to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Gartner said. “We don’t ever want this to happen again.” ... 

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