Four people are behind bars after being arrested in a roundup conducted by the Evarts City Police Department on Tuesday. Evarts residents Donnie Pace, Abe Bennett, Cecil Wayne Hughes and Mathew Johnson were lodged in the Harlan County Detention Center charged with the burglary of a ton of copper from the old Evarts High School building, which is now owned by Cloverfork For Progress For Education (CFPFE).
“The roundup began at 11 p.m. on Tuesday and by 2:30 a.m. all four suspects were arrested and lodged in jail,” said Evarts Police Chief Lupe Blas. “This investigation began approximately one month ago and after obtaining sales receipts from Baxter Metal and Robbins Recycling Inc., of Pineville, it was discovered the suspects allegedly sold copper from March 2011 through August 2011 to these facilities.”
Blas said a total of 2,040 pounds, or one ton, of copper was sold to Baxter Metal and Robbins Recycling. He said the total amount of money received for this copper was $14,249.90.
“After contacting a commercial electrical contracting company in April, they gave an estimated cost to repair damage done to the electrical system and fire alarms of the old high school building at $125,000,” said Blas. “They estimated $7,900 to repair security camera systems and $2,500 to repair the alarm system. An estimate of damages to the plumbing, heat and air units has not been made yet. It appears the costs will equal about the same amount given to repair the electrical system.”
Blas said this is “a major set back” for the Evarts community.
“We were working together with the city and envisioned things such as a Boys and Girls Club, senior citizen’s center, Mothers’ Morning Out Program, Early Childhood Development Program, ambulance service, feeding program, food pantry, emergency shelter, working with Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College to establish satellite college courses for those who live in the area and a veterans’ assistance program,” said CFPFE Chairman Benny Ray Coleman. “We had a lot of other ideas for projects, which could benefit our community. This building is a great asset to the Clover Fork community.”
Coleman said the building has been “sitting empty for the past four years.”
“I think there should be some sort of state mandate put into place to keep these old school buildings from sitting empty for years inviting thieves and vandals to come in,” said Coleman.
Blas said his investigation is not yet closed and more arrests are expected in this case. He asked if anyone has anymore information about this theft to call the Evarts Police Department at 837-8183.
Assisting in the investigation and arrests were Evarts [olice officers John Teagle, William Clogston, Brit Lipfird and Assistant Police Chief Owen Noe.
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or at email@example.com