ELK RAPIDS —
Mike Husband hears a lot of chatter in his small-town barbershop.
In late October, customers wondered what caused a fire that leveled the Riverwalk Grill restaurant, located around the corner from his Elk Rapids shop. Now they're asking why it's taking so long to clean up the site.
"There's been a lot of talk. Everyone in here is wondering why somebody isn't doing something about it," Husband said.
Elk Rapids police and fire officials and the Antrim County sheriff's department still haven't figured out what caused the Oct. 23 fire at the Riverwalk Grill. Charred debris remains near the prominent intersection of U.S. 31 and Ames Street.
"We're still trying to determine what happened there," said village police Chief Tom Emerson. "There are a lot of people we've had to interview, and as a smaller department, sometimes it's hard to juggle some of these harder cases."
Authorities determined arsonists set two fires along the same small stretch of Ames Road in October 2010. Both cases remain unsolved, but officials are actively investigating only a fire at Swift Audio. Authorities found little evidence to pursue the first fire at a vacant home.
Emerson said arson at the Riverwalk is "always a possibility" but they "aren't looking at it as being connected" to the other cases.
Some residents wonder why it's taken so long to clean up the site, said village planning and zoning Administrator Steven Ravezzani.
The village sent an unofficial notice to Riverwalk owner Matt Davies to inform him the site violates a dangerous structures ordinance. Davies told Ravezzani the insurance company is still excavating.
"This is just the way they do business," said Davies, of the insurance company. "They told me that first morning that they go in and excavate room by room, and take every claw of the excavator and go through it hand by hand, listing every thing and then they put it in a dumpster. They've done everything but the kitchen."
Davies said the insurance company has not indicated when its work will finish, but he's ready to take the building down as soon as he can. He wants to build a brew-pub at the same location.
"We want to get started building," Davies said. "We've had numerous offers to buy it, but there's not really a price we'd take for it because it's such a unique piece of property."
Joe Watt owns the Cone Corral & Pizzeria across the street from the former Riverwalk. He's not concerned about the clean-up pace.
"The building that's sitting there looking like debris, yeah, it's an eyesore — I'll give the local people that — but as a business owner I understand," Watt said. "I know when you have a fire, there are circumstances beyond your control. Insurance companies are not going to react quickly, so as the owner, I know you can't just hire (a) company and have it cleaned up. You have to wait for the investigation."
Ravezzani is satisfied with Davies' response to his letter, but the village will follow up with a formal notice if the clean-up doesn't happen once the insurance company finishes its investigation.
Watt hopes something happens before weather starts to warm up.
"Right now it's my off-season," he said. "If it's summertime and it's still sitting there, yeah, then I'd been concerned."
Debris lingers in Elk Rapids from autumn fire in restaurant
ELK RAPIDS —
Mike Husband hears a lot of chatter in his small-town barbershop.
Prep sports scoreboard: 05/23/2013
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Letters to the Editor: 05/23/2013
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- Prep sports scoreboard: 05/23/2013