The city of Santa Maria is offering a $2,500 reward for information that will lead to the apprehension and prosecution of whoever is responsible for setting fire to a large playground structure at Armstrong Park late last month.

The city is offering $2,000, and City Councilman Mike Cordero pledged another $500.

“The $2,000 will come from the city’s crime reward fund. It won’t affect the project at all," said Recreation and Parks Department Director Alex Posada. "The Fire Department is handling the investigation, so any information the community can provide can be sent to (them).”

The cause of the fire is undetermined.

“There wasn’t any evidence collected and there were no witnesses," said Fire Department Chief Leonard Champion. "At this time, the investigation is closed.” 

Anyone with information about the fire should call Santa Maria Fire Marshal Darrell Delgado at 925-0951, ext. 1578. 

The public’s help also is sought to replace the burned-out structure, valued at about $200,000.

Thanks to some grant reallocations during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, city leaders were able to find the lion’s share of the cost -- about $170,000.

The Recreation and Parks Department, along with its nonprofit support organization PLAY Inc., still needs about $10,000 from the public to help with its effort.

On Wednesday, the American GI Forum Education Foundation of Santa Maria donated $2,500.

“The American GI Forum Education Foundation of Santa Maria firmly believes that recreation and sports facilities are an essential component of well-being for our youth, including preschoolers, school-aged children and older youth,” Roy Bird, of the American GI Forum, said after his group presented its donation.

Posada said the rest of the money needed to replace the structure will come from cuts to his department’s current programs.

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The city’s insurance policy didn’t help in this situation because its deductible payment is about the same cost to rebuild the structure.

Park officials also said they will add security features to Armstrong Park and some of its other facilities. 

Posada thinks the park will be restored, though probably with a smaller play structure because of cost, by the end of this summer.

“Our Parks Division manager will work with our vendor to get a price for a unit and get that unit on order," he said. "It will typically take anywhere from 60 to 90 days to actually get a piece here. We are hoping the timing will work out.”

To make an online donation, visit www.santamariaatplay.org or go to the Recreation and Parks administrative office at 615 S. McClelland St.

Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.

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City Government Reporter