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Reist Mill at Amherst State Park

Williamsville arsonist ordered to pay $15,000 for '08 cleanup of Mill

Buffalo News December 30, 2009  by Sandra Tan

    The Williamsville man who burned down the historic Reist Street Mill in Amherst State Park has been ordered to repay $15,000 in cleanup costs to the Town of Amherst.

    Spencer J. MacPherson, of Cadman Drive, was arrested on arson charges in August 2008 for setting a fire that resulted in the destruction of the 187-year-old structure.

    He signed a judgment against him in Erie County Court two weeks ago requiring him to pay back the money spent by the town to secure the site and haul away the ruins.

    The 1821 gristmill, one of the town's oldest buildings, went up in flames July 21, 2008. Also known as the "Red Barn" and "Red Mill," the building once belonged to the Sisters of St. Francis. It was most recently owned by the state, though the town was responsible for maintaining the building and the surrounding park property.

    Preservation and conservation advocates criticized the town for not doing enough to protect the building at the time.

    Town administrators had estimated that it would cost $6,800 to remove the 120 to 150 cubic yards of debris, excluding additional work to fill the site back in and secure it. No grant or insurance money was available to help offset the cleanup expense.

    In September of last year, the board asked the town to seek reimbursement of the cleanup costs.

    Deputy Town Attorney Alan P. McCracken said that even though there is a legal judgment against MacPherson, that doesn't necessarily mean the town will collect the money, since the 21-year- old has few, if any, assets.

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