Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 18, 2017

Two years of work

No leads yet on Keota arson; still under investigation
By Andy Hallman | Dec 05, 2012
New buildings now stand on West Broadway Street in Keota, where five buildings were damaged or destroyed on Dec. 4, 2010. Burn marks are still visible on the building next to the new construction.

A special agent with the Iowa Bureau of Arson and Explosives said there is no new information to report on the fire that consumed part of a city block in Keota. The fire occurred two years ago on Dec. 4, 2010.
Special Agent Justin Wade said his office has not found any new evidence on the case in the past year. The fire was declared an arson in late December 2010.
Wade said the Iowa Bureau of Arson and Explosives spent a few days at the scene of the fire in 2010 and hasn’t been back to it since. He and the bureau interviewed eyewitnesses afterward. He said they provided good information but none that have led to any leads on a suspect.
“We haven’t found a motive or any of that, either,” Wade said. “And we only have so long to prove an arson.”
The statute of limitations for the crime of arson is three years.
Bill Miller, who owns Miller Autobody, said he didn’t believe the block his business sits on could be rebuilt in such a short time. That block on Broadway Street now hosts four business owners in what was a vacant lot a year ago.
Miller put up a new building in March just east of his autobody shop. He said the building looks pretty big. He said people have commented that it looks bigger than the lumberyard but in fact the lumberyard took up multiple lots and was actually larger. He uses the back end of the building, the south side, to store vehicles. He said he would rent out the space to RV owners or people who need a place to store their boat or camper for the winter.
That storage facility now houses 30 units. Miller said he’s had to turn people away because there’s no longer any room. He said that is a nice problem to have, and one he couldn’t have imagined having in the months after the fire.
The front portion of the new building contains two offices. Miller didn’t have to wait long to find tenants. Carlos Frias contacted him about moving in even before the building was finished. Frias owns a series of fitness centers called “Bootcamp Madness,” and he wanted to expand into Keota. Casey Thompson was one of several people who operated “Fountain Fitness” in Sigourney, and he, too, was interested in expanding into Keota. Thompson contacted Miller, who informed him he had one more office space open for rent, and Thompson took it
Miller had another couple of lots, in between his office building and the row of buildings to the east. As luck would have it, Erik Strand had been thinking of moving his rural transmission shop on Highway 92 south of Keota into the city. The December 2010 fire destroyed a large portion of a city block but it also created an opportunity for a new beginning. A few months after the fire, Strand talked to Miller about moving onto one of his lots.
Strand and Miller talked about putting up a building on the lots through the early part of 2011. In September of that year, Strand purchased two lots from Miller. In April, construction began on Strand’s transmission shop. He moved in July 10 and has been open for business ever since.
Miller said that he and the other three business owners have been doing very well.

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