Clearing of land by order of the county commission led to attempted arson in Eastpoint.

Clearing of land by order of the county commission led to attempted arson in Eastpoint.

At the Sept. 4 county commission meeting, Chairwoman Pinki Jackel asked commissioners to order that land located at Paton Drive and US 98 be cleared. The property is privately owned by Sandra Fields of Michigan.

She said, “There is an ongoing congregation of people on Sandra Field’s property at Patton Drive.”

Jackel said she had written to Fields.

Jackel said the sheriff’s department is not controlling the problem and that lewd behavior and public drunkenness were commonplace in the area. She said vagrants frequenting the property were “fussing and fighting.”

“I don’t know what they’re using for a bathroom,” she said. “It’s an eyesore and a disgrace. I almost ran over a man and I don’t know if he knew he was standing in the middle of Paton Drive.”

Jackel said she believed many of the vagrants were felons and that one man had a jaw broken there during a fight last week. “An ambulance hauled him to Weems at the expense of the county,” she said.

Commissioner Bevin Putnal said the men were homeless.

Jackel said, “Even if they’re homeless the law has to be enforced and I would ask that they do that.”

Commissioner Cheryl Sanders suggested a letter be sent to the sheriff.

Jackel said she wanted the law enforced immediately.

The commission voted to write the sheriff with Noah Lockley opposed.

“I would have to see it,” he said.

After the meeting, Director of Administrative Services Alan Pierce received a letter from absentee owner Fields, authorizing him to post no trespassing signs and clear her land.

“She was delighted with the offer,” Pierce said.

On Thursday morning county workers and sheriff’s deputies set to work clearing the area at around 9 a.m.

Pierce was on the scene to make sure that adjacent land belonging to Noah Goodson was not cleared in keeping with Goodson’s wishes. The job was finished at about noon.

On Thursday evening at about 10:45 p.m. Sergeant Wayne Nash was summoned to the Eastpoint Pavilion adjacent to Field’s land to investigate possible arson.

Sheriff’s Department Investigator Brett Johnson said Nash discovered some charring on a picnic table and a pool of gasoline but the fire was out.

Nash summoned fire fighters to contain the accelerant.

On Friday, Johnson, Sheriff’s Department Investigator Duane Cook and Brock Dietz of the State Fire Marshall’s Office met at the pavilion around noon. Johnson said they found minor charring to a table and a stick with one end burned.

On questioning possible witnesses, investigators theorized that the stick had been used to ignite gasoline poured on the table.

One witness told investigators the resulting explosion blew the attempted arsonist from the pavilion and the fire extinguished itself.

Johnson said a possible suspect has been identified by several informants and a warrant has been issued.

The investigation is ongoing.

During the cleanup on Thursday, sheriff’s deputies recognized Mike Holland 52 of Apalachicola who had an outstanding warrant and he was taken into custody.

Pierce said he is exploring the possibility of leasing the newly cleared land from Fields.