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Benson officials battle over town's first fire engine

Posted March 1, 2010

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— Benson’s first fire engine, dating back to 1907, has become the center of a battle between the town’s fire department and a former commissioner.

When the fire department had no place to store the relic, former Benson Commissioner Nathan Blackmon offered to store the horse-drawn water pumper in his showroom at Blackmon’s Auto Sales on Wall Street.

For the past 20 years, the truck has sat among classic Oldsmobiles, Chevys and Fords.

“The town has offered to pay him (Blackmon) for storage, for housing it over the years,” fire chief Alan Johnson said.

Benson officials battle over fire engine Benson officials battle over fire engine

Town commissioners have tried several times to get the fire engine back from Blackmon.

“The only recourse we have now is to seek satisfaction through the courts,” Commissioner Fred Nelson said.

Blackmon had said when the renovated Benson Museum of Local History opens later this year, “he would be the one to put it” there,” Johnson said.

Blackmon told WRAL News on Monday that he had planned to give the fire engine to the museum, but will not be doing so anymore. He declined to comment further, noting the issue would be settled in court.

An attorney for Blackmon, LaVonda Wood of Benson, said it would be improper for her to comment about the matter.

Benson officials contend the fire engine belongs to the town not Blackmon.

“We feel that it belongs to the town and the people in town,” Nelson said.

Commissioners say the engine was never deemed surplus property, so it couldn’t be offered for sale. “There’s no record that it was ever given or sold to anyone,” Nelson said.

Nelson said firefighters raised more than $1,300 to repair the truck's wheels in 2004. “They worked hard to get the funds up to be able to refurbish it,” he said.

Johnson said Blackmon allowed the wheels to be put on.

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  • OSX Mar 2, 2010

    All of the old stuff on his floor attracts people in to look at it. He benefited from it sitting there in some fashion or other. Go to crossroads ford in Cary. They have a lot of old cars in there because PEOPLE WANT TO SEE THEM. Then they are in the door.

  • Prison 1 Mar 2, 2010

    If I was the Fire Department, I would ask some members who were on the department in 1984 about a meeting where the truck was given to Mr. Blackmon. It was voted on by the members at the meeting and passed at the time. Might not have been thiers to give away but it happened. Have they lost minutes to the meeting, or dont they want to find them. Not my fight, just what I know.

  • mulecity007 Mar 2, 2010

    1 KidforMom- I agree with one point but not the other; ‘Possession is 9/10 of the Law’ has no place in today’s society. I do agree this is sad drama for Benson, as believe me, we have our share of.
    As a citizen of the Town of Benson, and a member of the Benson Fire Department, I know how much this fire truck means to each and every member of the Department. It saddens me that we put our lives on the line, and do so in a volunteer fashion, to have someone, who, I have once considered a respectful citizen of Benson, to do this for what I see as nothing more to show his behind end. And, he being a former town commissioner, who should be well aware of the financial strain something like this could and will put on a town that already struggles financially, is very inconsiderate. I hope for the sake of the town citizens and members of the Fire Department that Nathan will reconsider and let our piece of Town history reside in a place where it belongs.

  • jbyrd Mar 2, 2010

    Sounds to me like all he wanted was a "Donated by Blackmon" sign on it when it went to the museum and the town commissioners would not stand for that. I would wager he has about as much Benson history in his life as the fire engine. True native Bensonites should rally with him to preserve the true history of Benson.

  • wayneboyd Mar 2, 2010

    Amen itis, the town has known the whereabouts of the antique for the past 20 years and never gave, as far as I can determine, any indication that they had any interest in it until now and the town like all others are strapped for cash and the little engine probably had some monetary value so now they want it back. Tough luck, the town can't find any record of having sold it, the present owner has no record where he bought it, but posession IS nine tenths of the law and there's no denying that he's been in posession of it for 20 years.

  • Apex Man Mar 2, 2010

    Boycott his dealership!

  • WHEEL Mar 2, 2010

    Blackmon should send the City a storage bill for $100,000, $5,000/yr doesn't seem unreasonable, and if they don't pay it seize the "truck" for non payment or better yet a mechanics lean. If some stupid judge won't let him do that he should pull it out in his sales lot and set it on fire!

  • 1KidMom Mar 2, 2010

    Well they let the man have it all this time, and pop up now and want it back years and years later. Let the man keep it for now, he old and set in his ways. You mess with people like that you will lose. And create bad drama for Benson.

  • leo-nc Mar 2, 2010

    I know who will never get my business when it's time to buy a car, and hopefully others will follow suit.

  • archmaker Mar 2, 2010

    i'm sure he's just waiting to put the underbody rust protection on it before giving it back.

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