Gentile, Phillips reach out to Middleport

By Michael Hart - For the Sentinel

MIDDLEPORT — Just days after a fire devastated a small area of downtown Middleport on May 16, state Sen. Lou Gentile and state Rep. Debbie Phillips visited the village and spoke with Mayor Sandy Ianarelli.

In total, seven fire departments responded that night, including Middleport, Pomeroy, Rutland, Syracuse, Racine, Mason and New Haven. Also present were Middleport police, Meigs County Sheriff’s Office, Pomeroy police and Meigs EMS.

There were no reported injuries related to the fire. The State Fire Marshal’s office was at the site to begin their investigation early Tuesday morning, which quickly led to charges of aggravated arson, a first-degree felony, for Keith R. Day, 31, of Middleport.

Law enforcement officials took Day into custody Monday night shortly after firefighters arrived on the scene.

Ianarelli, whose father was a firefighter, has been involved in the village’s non-emergency response and telephone lines are still out in many areas of Middleport and Rutland.

“My heart aches for those affected,” she said in the meeting with Gentile and Phillips. “This is a real tragedy for the people involved.”

The state officials also expressed their sympathies, but Gentile said he was encouraged “to see people coming together so swiftly for this. Everyone here rallied so quickly. Not all communities have that response.”

He continued, “My hat is off to all those fire departments and first responders. With that many coming from all over the area, village boundaries don’t matter — people are coming to save the community.”

The state senator and representative discussed the rebuilding effort and ways the state government could assist, though defining the next steps will largely hinge on Ingles (the most-damaged business) and the insurance process.

“As you move forward with clean-up and the recovery path becomes clear, we want to help,” Phillips said.

The Middleport blaze was compared to a large fire on Union Street in Athens during the past year, an area that has only recently completed their restoration efforts.

“It is important you know we are paying attention, even if what we can do in the short term is limited,” Gentile said. “This sort of thing can take a while for communities to complete the recovery.”

By Michael Hart

For the Sentinel