Gantt Fire Department could face theft charges, eviction

Published 12:03 am Friday, May 17, 2013

Members of the Gantt Area Fire and Rescue Inc. could be facing theft charges and eviction from the fire station property if they don’t comply with the town council’s requests to return town property and sign a property use lease.

The two entities have been in discussions for months after the GAFR announced its five-year capital improvement plan, which called for the selling of its newest fire truck and the construction of a new satellite station.

On Monday, things came to a head when GAFR assistant chief Billy Stanley presented the council with a letter requesting the town sell the fire truck and release the department from making any more payments on the truck – the next, of which, is due mid-July. It also requested the town retain possession of two other unusable pumper trucks.

The 2002 fire truck is listed in the town’s name; however, the department pays the loan payment and insurance.

The GAFR receives county 3 mil funding, funds from the Alabama Forestry Commission, and money from its own fundraising efforts.

The town countered with a letter, stating it would accept the three trucks, but only if they were returned in undamaged condition and without removing any integral equipment such as lights, horns and sirens.

“Mr. Stanley told us that night that the department wanted to use the equipment off the old truck to outfit the truck they plan to purchase,” said Town Clerk Christy Cartwright said Wednesday. “He was told that if they remove that equipment after this request, it’s theft.”

Public discussion is that the GAFR is also refusing to make the next $7,500 semi-annual loan payment on the truck – making the town liable for the payment; however, Stanley and Chief Doug Noon said Thursday, that’s not the case.

“The town would absolutely not have to pay,” Noon said. “We need to meet with the mayor and try to straighten things out. I know it’s hard to interpret things through a letter, but that’s it.

“The thing of it is that we can’t do anything while we have the payment on engine No. 1,” he said. “We can’t save money, buy new gear or move forward with our five-year plan.”

The town is also requesting that the GAFR now pay a $200 per month rental fee for the town-owned fire station. “If the (GAFR) does not wish to enter into a lease, then you are hereby asked to vacate the fire station by July 1, 2013,” the letter stated.