BEAN STATION (WATE) – Leaders from the volunteer fire department in Bean Station say they’ve been given a bad deal by a repair shop in Morristown. The owner of the business says the volunteer department is responsible for a storage fee, on top of the time spent checking over the fire truck.
The owner of the shop says he’s in the right, but the chiefs from Bean Station say all they want is their truck back.
In many areas of East Tennessee, volunteer fire departments protect thousands of homes and their budgets are usually small. They depend on fundraisers a lot. In Bean Station, the volunteer department recently bought a ladder truck. To help defray the cost, they put a 40-year old pumper truck up for sale.
Assistant Fire Chief Randy Meade and Fire Chief Ron Wonderly lead Bean Station’s 16-member volunteer fire department. With six active trucks, the department serves 4,200 households in this part of Grainger County. One of their pumpers is parked in Morristown at a tire and repair shop. The department is told it’s going to cost $1,000 to get it back.
The 1974 pumper was up for sale in early summer and advertised on a website used by fire departments around the world.
“We put the truck in Fenton Magazine. They had a guy by the name of Roger Gonzalez contact me. He was interested in the truck and was willing to give the price that we asked,” said Wonderly.
Wonderly says Gonzalez was from Texas, but first he wanted the pumper checked by a reputable repair shop. Gonzalez asked the firefighters to drive it to Morristown.
“He tells me he contacted Joe from Morristown Tire and Precision,” said Wonderly. “He said bring it down and he’s going to check the truck over.”
Joe Evert is the manager of Morristown Tire and Performance Center.
“We never contacted anyone in Morristown. Roger contacted those folks in Morristown. All they asked us to do was get the truck to Morristown and drop it off for them,” said Meade.
In a message on June 26, Evert told Gonzalez the charge will be $69.99 to look over the pumper.
“[Gonzalez] wanted to make sure the truck was roadworthy because he was actually going to drive the truck back to Texas,” said Meade.
Bean Station’s engine 353 is checked at the shop in Morristown. As the weeks go by, Gonzalez wrote in August to Evert that the deal is off. It’s going to be too expensive to move the fire engine to Texas.
“He decided not to buy the truck, but [Gonzalez] admitted he owed the $70 tab and he would pay that, but he never did,” said Meade.
Six weeks ago, Meade and Wonderly were told the volunteer fire department will have to pay nearly $700 to get their truck back because a $10 a day storage fee was added to the tab. Chief Wonderly says he was told last week the bill had gone up to $1,000.
The entire yearly budget for the volunteer fire department is $30,000.
Tim Goins, the owner of Morristown Tire and Performance Center. says since Chief Ron Wonderly and others drove the truck to his shop, Bean Station’s volunteer department is ultimately responsible for the inspection plus storage, but it was not going to cost $1,000.
“Ron [Wonderly] just, he stirs things, you know. No, it’s not it’s not going to cost a thousand dollars,” he said. “I’ll have to go in here to find out [how much]. I’m not exactly sure.”
A few moments later after checking records, Goins lowered the price. He said he wants the truck gone because it’s taking up valuable space.
“If they bring $500, I’ll let it go,” he said. “I want done with Grainger County all together because of the fact of their integrity.”
He’s spent an hour, or an hour and a half going over the truck, didn’t make any repairs. Let us pay the $70 bucks. Give us our truck back,” said Meade.
Chief Wonderly now says after speaking with Goins again Wednesday, the bill is again at $1,000. and if the money is not paid by the end of this month, a mechanic’s lien will be filed and the truck will be sold at auction.
Goins says he and his shop have done nothing wrong; it’s the fire department’s responsibility to pay the bill.