Local News

Benson officials battle over town's first fire engine

Posted March 1, 2010 4:56 p.m. EST
Updated March 1, 2010 6:35 p.m. EST

— 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.

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.