City officials fight to keep people out of abandoned paper mill

Posted at 4:59 PM, Mar 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-16 19:34:53-04

PARCHMENT, Mich. — A pair of arson fires that broke out Monday at a paper mill in Parchment have raised a few eyebrows. City officials deemed the fires ‘suspicious’ and said they may be due to a few wandering trespassers.

“The difficulty that any vacant industrial site like the Crown Vantage Paper Mill has is dealing with trespassers,” said Parchment City Manager Dennis Durham. “This is the time of year when the weather turns warmer. People are always curious going into the mill.”

Crown Vantage Paper Mill was once booming in the 1980s and ‘90s when it employed hundreds of people. However since closing its doors in 2000 it’s become a vacant, run-down eyesore. Durham said trespassers typically sneak into the 90-acre site to vandalize on the walls or steal scrap metal.

“Every so often we’ll notice holes in the fence where people are entering the property so we have to mend the fence,” said Durham. “Then we also have security cameras in the various locations on the property. So that we can identify any trespassers if there’s any kind of criminal activity.”

In addition to installing security cameras, Durham said police patrol the area at night throughout the year. The city also boarded up windows and doors on the first two floors in order to keep people out. It's not safe to walk around inside, he said. When Crown Vantage moved their printing presses, they left sizeable caverns that trespassers can easily fall into.

“Those giant machines, when they were moved, they left holes in floors,” said Durham. “Some of those structures have large holes in the manufacturing floors and those are dangerous.”

The old Crown Vantage site was bought by a Colorado-based company in 2008 but nothing’s happened. Durham said there’s rumor of another company possibly leaving. The city is preparing ahead of time of what to do.

“There’s always worry,” said Durham. “When we are in an economic climate that we’re in today and losing industrial jobs county-wide, we are always very worried that the next company will tell us ‘Hey this site doesn’t make sense with their corporate strategy.’”

Durham, like the city of Parchment, simply wants people to stay out of vacant and abandoned buildings for their own safety.

“We’re just hoping that people will look at the ‘No Trespassing’ signs and understand that its not a safe place for people to you know, trespass,” said Durham.

Anyone with information about Monday’s fires should call 1-800-44-ARSON. City officials are offering a $5000 reward for any information that leads to an arrest.