Just over two years ago the City of Corner Brook announced a plan to restore a 1948 American LaFrance fire truck that had once been a vital part of the fire department’s fleet.
The work was supposed to have been completed this past summer, but in recent days the old truck has been seen parked in the yard at the city’s salt shed on O’Connell Drive, still in the same shape it was when the restoration project was announced in July 2015.
Todd Flynn, director of protective services, said the restore is not happening and the reason why is because there is no money for it.
Despite a verbal commitment at the time of $40,000 by the city to cover the cost of the restore, Flynn said it was never budgeted for.
“There’s never been a budget line assigned to this project.”
From his research Flynn has found that there was a request by then Mayor Charles Pender to look at the budget to identify the funding, but none was identified.
“We just could not take operational or any of the money that we had and move it into that. We just didn’t have extra at the time, and we don’t have it now.”
The plan had been for students at the College of the North Atlantic to provide the labour for the restore and a committee was supposed to have been struck that included members of the Corner Brook Fire Department to oversee the work.
However, Flynn said he’s not aware of any committee and that some of the people who were involved at the time no longer work for the city.
Flynn said it’s unlikely the restore is something city will undertake anytime in the near future as the cost to do so has risen to around $60,000.
“I’d love to see the truck done, but I can’t justify spending that money when we’re so crunched here financially,” said Flynn.
The truck had been stored at a local business, without cost, but the facility has been rented and the city had to move it out.
So, for now the city is looking for another location to store it or to get it properly covered.
If someone was interested in taking on the restore, Flynn said the city would be open to negotiation on that.
The 1948 American LaFrance fire engine from the prestigious — yet controversial, and now defunct — American LaFrance manufacturer was brought to Corner Brook by the Bowater Corporation before the city even existed.
The owners of the pulp and paper mill purchased the truck new, and had it shipped into port via one of its freighters to serve the company town. It replaced the horse and wagon firefighting unit of those days.
After amalgamation of the fire departments within the area in 1953, the truck was utilized for the greater jurisdiction of what would eventually become the City of Corner Brook.
It was used by the Corner Brook Fire Department until it was taken out of service in the early- to mid-1970s. After that it became an attraction in motorcades and ceremonial events. Eventually, its time passed on that too. No longer trustworthy mechanically, it’s been well over a decade since it last saw duty of any kind.