- Associated Press - Friday, February 19, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The tiny northern North Dakota town of Antler is set to close the book on its ordeal with white supremacist Craig Cobb in a similar fashion as the southern town of Leith: demolition.

But out of safety concerns, Antler will forego a symbolic nod to Leith by not doing the job with fire, a tool that got Leith’s mayor in trouble with the law.

Antler plans to raze a dilapidated former bank building on Feb. 29 that Cobb, who now lives in nearby Sherwood, once tried to buy to convert into a church. City officials thwarted his plans by buying up all of the town’s vacant property, including the nearly century-old bank.

“The wrecking ball is gonna hit her,” Antler Mayor Bruce Hanson said. “Then we’re going to bury (the debris) on site.”

The land purchases and legal fees cost the town of about two dozen people $35,000. The city is holding a lunch fundraiser during the building demolition and also hopes to draw attention to its account on the GoFundMe crowdfunding site. The site quickly raised nearly $10,000 in donations from around the world after town zoning board member Mark Jorgensen in September set up the Antler, North Dakota, Preservation Fund, but the donations have since tapered off.

“We’re hoping that maybe (the demolition event) will help boost it a little bit,” Jorgensen said.

Antler officials initially planned to burn down the building, but they couldn’t get a burn permit due to asphalt and tar on the roof, which can produce toxic smoke when burned. The plans to use fire were a symbolic nod to Leith, a town that Cobb unsuccessfully tried to turn into a white enclave.

After Cobb was put on probation in April 2014 for terrorizing and menacing residents, Leith Mayor Ryan Schock and other city officials torched condemned buildings - some of which were once owned by Cobb - to clean up the community.

Schock ended up facing a misdemeanor charge of failing to control or report a dangerous fire, but the charge ultimately was dropped.

Hanson said he’s a little disappointed that the symbolism has been lost.

“It would have been nice to tie things together, but what do you do,” he said.

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Follow Blake Nicholson on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/NicholsonBlake

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