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Four charged in break-in at former NCCC campus

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MALONE - Four Massena youths were arrested Tuesday after Malone police allegedly discovered they had spent the night in one of the former North Country Community College buildings and had set fire to the floor and in a barrel.

The alleged act of vandalism has once again sparked concern and frustration from law enforcement and school and government officials who want the condemned and unsecured buildings torn down.

The Malone Central School District will soon ask taxpayers to support demolition of the campus, which also once housed Clarkson University and a school for the deaf, as part of a much larger $16 million bus garage expansion and sports field installation project.

Once the buildings are removed, proposed soccer and softball fields would be created in front of and to the side of the renovated bus garage. The soccer field would run east to west along College Avenue, near where it intersects with Willow Street. Following several forums in which school officials will explain the project to the community, the proposal will go up for a public vote along with the school district budget vote on May 20.

“The buildings are in such disrepair. I support the school district’s efforts to remove the unsafe structures and provide a safe environment for our children to enjoy outdoor activities,” Malone Village Mayor Todd LePine said.

Malone Village Police Sgt. David Merrick reported the four arrested youths had allegedly traveled to Malone Monday to meet with a local resident and reportedly ended up partying inside one of the buildings. Alcohol, marijuana and fireworks were allegedly found in their possession, and one of the four was only 16.

“This is exactly what we’re talking about; we can eliminate these types of things [if the bus garage plans are approved by public vote],” said Tim Whipple, Malone Central School District business manager.

Franklin Academy Principal Brandon Pelkey had a sneaking suspicion something was going on at the abandoned buildings Tuesday morning, so he gave the police a call. The unsafe and unsecured buildings have been a concern of his for some time now.

“There’s always activity there. Kids know it’s not school property, so they think they can hang out there,” he said.

Police reportedly caught the four inside the building Tuesday morning after Mr. Pelkey’s tip-off. The Malone Callfiremen were immediately called to the scene to extinguish the fires. They removed the barrel from the building.

Arrested were: Jessica A. Gilmore, 18, one count of trespass; a 16-year-old male, also one count of trespass; Bobbie J. Murray, 20, trespass, unlawful possession of marijuana and possession of fireworks; and Matthew G. DeForge, 22, first-degree unlawfully dealing with a child (for allegedly providing alcohol to the 16-year-old), unlawful possession of marijuana and trespass.

All were released on appearance tickets for Malone Village Court at 9:30 a.m. May 6.

Mr. Merrick said the investigation is continuing and further charges may be filed. The police plan to pay close attention to the buildings and catch anyone hanging out there.

Village Police Chief Chris Premo stressed, “This is just the tip-off. These buildings are condemned and unsafe. Anyone caught trespassing will be prosecuted.”

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