Aberdeen approves $250,000 for museum fire apparatus rehab

Aberdeen will spend close to $250,000 to rehabilitate two historic pieces of fire apparatus damaged in the June 2018 armory fire.

However, the Aberdeen City Council’s majority approval of the expenditure came with an amendment urging the museum board to work at finding other sources of funding to absorb the city’s cost.

As reported in The Daily World on Nov. 6, the museum board found a contractor — Vintage Vehicle Restoration in Harleysville, Pennsylvania — to bring the 1927 Ahrens-Fox engine and 1902 Metropolitan steam pumper back to pre-fire condition. The cost of the restoration, which could take up to four years, will be $120,000 for the Ahrens-Fox and $125,000 for the wooden-wheeled Metropolitan.

As Councilwoman Tawni Andrews said at the Wednesday, Nov. 10, City Council meeting, that cost does not include shipping, which will be calculated later.

Before the discussion over the expenditure, which would come out of the city’s 2022 general fund — still with a portion of the $23 million armory fire insurance settlement — Council President Dee Anne Shaw moved to amend the request to include requesting “additional information, ideas and recommendations from the museum board regarding fundraising and grant opportunities to reduce the impact on the general fund.”

City Parks Director Stacie Barnum, the city’s representative on the museum board, explained the city would not be paying for the rehab up front, but in installments through the length of the rehab.

“This would be just like when we purchase any other large piece of equipment,” she said. “It would be in installments as the project goes on.”

Council member Liz Ellis said she wasn’t sure such a large expenditure should be a priority at this time, “although it would be fabulous” to see both pieces of equipment restored to their former glory. She wondered if there would even be enough space to showcase the equipment in the museum building the city is in the process of purchasing.

Shaw said the board does not have the authority in city code to submit grant requests on behalf of the city and would need specific authorization to do so.

“We’re in a unique situation here where we have an advisory board for a museum department that does not have an employee,” said Barnum, whereas other boards, like the Parks Board, has an employee, herself, who is authorized to submit grants and perform fundraising opportunities. That is the reason Shaw offered her the amendment.

As the report was near a vote, Ellis asked, “What if the museum board doesn’t come back to us with anything, then were does this go?” Barnum responded, “You as a council are committing that we (the city) will spend $245,000 and pay Vintage Vehicle Restoration regardless of if the museum board can raise the money or not.”

The vote was 9-2 in favor of the expenditure, with City Council member Deborah Ross absent. Voting no, apparently because of the fact that the city will pay for the restoration regardless of what funding the museum board can secure, were Ellis and Margo Shortt.