Ridgefield police close field fire investigation after town receives donations for fix (UPDATE)
UPDATE, 3:35 p.m. — The Ridgefield Police Department has closed its investigation into who started the field fire at Governor Park without revealing any names of who was responsible for pouring gasoline and lighting it in attempt to make the field playable for the Ridgefield High School baseball team.
"The Ridgefield Police Department has closed its investigation into this incident due to the fact that compensation has been made for the damages," Capt. Shawn Platt said Thursday in a release. "Town Officials no longer wish to press criminal charges. Anyone seeking further information may contact the Ridgefield Town Hall."
Earlier in the day, The Press had reported that the $40,000 repair bill would not be covered by insurance. First Selectman Rudy Marconi said that the damage would be covered by private donations.
The donations were anonymous, and were coming to the town through a trustee account overseen by an attorney, Marconi told the Board of Selectmen Wednesday night.
“That’s all I’m at liberty to say,” he said.
Stephen J. Sedensky III, state's attorney for the Judicial District of Danbury, told The Press Thursday morning that he believed the town was not pursuing criminal action claims because restitution had been made.
“From my understanding, the town is not interested in pursuing criminal action because there was a restitution,” he said.
The state's attorney said restitution was a common practice in situations like the field fire in Ridgefield.
“We see restitutions made all the time,” he said.
When determining whether to prosecute somebody, he said his office looks at intent and behavior on a "case to case basis."
“Our primary concern is that the victim is made whole,” Sedensky said. "The victim, in this case being the town, feels the necessary restitution was made...
“Sometimes restitutions come from the person involved in the behavior, sometimes it comes from other sources,” he added.
Earlier version: 1:21 p.m., Thursday, April 18 — Costs estimated at about $40,000 from the field fire at Governor Park won’t be covered by insurance, but anonymous donations already coming in are expected to provide enough to handle the town’s expenses, according to First Selectman Rudy Marconi.
“No taxpayer dollars are being used,” Marconi told the Board of Selectmen Wednesday night, April 17.
“We’ve completed restoration,” he said. “Fresh clay was brought in.”
Over 60 yards of material contaminated earth and clay was removed from the infield — between first and second base, and second and third base — of the high school baseball field, he said, to repair damage done when people attempted to use fire to dry out the wet field so a game could be played on Saturday, April 6.
“All test result are in — clear of contaminants,” he said.
“According to Moran Environmental it is $30,000, plus the cost of restoration,” Marconi said of the clean-up. “I think a maximum of another $10,000.”
Marconi said he’d read online that high school coaches at the scene of the fire that day — who’d been suspended — were now back coaching.
Neither the police nor the first selectman’s office had been consulted or informed of that decision, he said later.
“They must have felt suspension for a week was adequate — I’m not disagreeing with that,” he said.
Marconi said the town’s insurance agents and carrier had looked into the situation and said if the incident had take place inside a building, it would likely have been covered — but not outside on a ball field.
“Relative to insurance, it looks as through we will not receive any insurance money,” Marconi told the selectmen.
Marconi said that “four or five” donations were expected to cover the anticipated cost of about $40,000. The town had already received two checks, he said, and another was expected Thursday.
The donations were anonymous, and were coming to the town through a trustee account overseen by an attorney, Marconi told the selectmen.
“That’s all I’m at liberty to say,” he added.
Field maintainers from the Parks and Recreation Department’s crew had helped finish the field restoration after the environmental company’s work was done, Marconi said.
Selectman Steve Zemo wondered what message the anonymous nature of the donations sent.
“The learning lesson, for kids, of an adult taking responsibility for a bad decision — not a malicious decision — is the part that’s missing,” Zemo said.
“We don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes,” said Selectman Bob Hebert. “... Social media, they crucify you.”
“I think the players know they were without coaches for a week,” Marconi said, “and the reason for that was that incident.”