State files claim against City of Tempe after 2016 fire at the Arizona Historical Society Museum

Posted at 8:42 PM, Jun 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-24 08:51:57-04

A new legal battle is brewing in the Valley and taxpayer dollars could be funding the fight.

The state filed a claim against the city of Tempe for more than $356,000, claiming they are responsible for a fire that sparked in Papago Park in 2016 that did major damage to the Arizona Historical Society Museum.

The state owns the museum and filed a claim against the city in Superior Court last week.

The fire, on June 15, 2016, started on state land, in an area called "The Green Line." It's a stream of water and trees outside the museum and it had become a popular spot for homeless camps.

According to the state's claim, the city and state entered into a contract in 2003, agreeing the city would maintain the area. But, the state says they had to make several complaints to the city about overgrown weeds, trash, homeless camps and a previous fire in 2015 that did not do any damage.

The state's claim says the fire last summer is the city's fault. But the city is fighting that accusation. The have denied the claim twice.

They say the fire was on state property. However, fire crews could never pinpoint the exact cause of the fire and the state never told them the roof had to be replaced.

Tempe says they are not liable for the damage and will not pay the costs.

As the legal battle continues, the museum is up and running. They had to repair their entire roof and fix drywall. It took about three months, but the museum was able to stay open the entire time.

"We are very, very fortunate there was no damage to any of our artifacts or any of our exhibits," said Arizona Historical Society Museum director Tawn Downs.