(Independent File Photo)
by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
The Owosso City Council began a discussion during its Monday, July 2 meeting about what to do with the city’s 1921 American LaFrance Fire Engine, which was designated as a memorial to Owosso fire fighters by the Owosso City Council years ago. The antique fire engine had been stored in the city garage on Gould Street before it was moved to a temperature-controlled facility at the Baker College ADI Institute three years ago, where it has been stored for free and even restored to working condition by the Baker staff and students. Baker College has asked the city of Owosso to find another storage facility for the large, heavy vehicle, so city employees and elected officials have now made finding a home for the truck a priority.
Owosso Public Safety Chief Kevin Lenkart reports that the truck has not been started since 2017 and is in need of repairs that are estimated to cost between $8,000 and $10,000 in the first year, with recurring costs of $2,500 to $5,000 annually. If an acceptable solution cannot be reached to restore, preserve and store the truck, this piece of Owosso history could be donated to a museum or sold to a collector, though council members strongly opposed any plan during the July 2 meeting that would mean getting rid of the antique truck.
Residents Tom Manke and Eddie Urban both spoke in favor of doing whatever necessary to save the truck during the July 2 meeting, and the council agreed. Council member Burton Fox spoke strongly in defense of keeping the truck, noting that the truck was Owosso’s first gas-powered fire engine and is an important part of the city’s history.
Fox went on to say, “We have moved this to the back burner a number of times over the years to fund projects for our children, like the Bentley Park play equipment and splash pad, and the skate park. It is time we re-focus our attention on finding a permanent home for our fire engine. I don’t want to give our history away, and I think we can raise the money necessary to build a museum.”
Council member Lori Bailey added, “This is something we need to talk about,” while council member Dan Law reiterated that the council “should not ignore our history.” City Manager Nathan Henne cautioned the council that the cost of restoring the truck and constructing a temperature-control storage facility for it could be more prohibitive than expected, but that he would get to work immediately on a long-term solution.
The council tabled the discussion indefinitely, and is looking for a temperature-controlled facility in which the truck can be stored until a permanent home is found or created. Preliminary options were discussed, such as housing the truck in the Corunna Historical Village or incorporating a memorial/museum space in the plans for the proposed Owosso Public Safety building.