Appleby Fire Dept. deals with budget shortfall

APPLEBY, TX (KTRE) - There's an emptiness at the Appleby Volunteer Fire Department. The garage is mostly bare after the repo man hauled off two new fire trucks which leaves an emptiness in the gut of new leadership.

"They (Members) were totally kept in the dark," said Appleby Fire Chief Mike Shepherd. Shepherd accepted the position after an interim chief assigned through Jan. 1 resigned following the repossessions. Now Chief Shepherd is on a fact finding mission. What he's discovering isn't pretty.

"We found many past due bills tat we had no idea that we were behind on," shared Shepherd. "I figure on the two trucks there was roughly $8,000 a month on those notes and some of those there may have been 4-$5,000 that came in."

Former chief, Dave Crawford is receiving much of the blame. He's now living in another state. A call to Crawford wasn't immediately returned.

His leadership led to a nice building, state of the art equipment, paid volunteers and the formation of a tax base. Shepherd said one vital element was missing.

"They never sat down and did a hard budget," said Shepherd.

Also being taken into consideration was a reduction in emergency service district tax distribution percentages enacted earlier this year by county officials.

In addition, Shepherd discovered a Quicken budget page showed a January to January budget year, while funds were dispersed on the fiscal year of October to October. "It looks like some funds were added into the budget twice," said Shepherd.

Right now Shepherd is calling the mess a mismanagement of funds.

"We haven't been able to pin point any illegal activities at this point," said Shepherd.

911 can't be called for this problem, so Shepherd is looking for ways to cut costs.

"We're trying to work out a deal where we can try to sell those trucks and get out from under that debt," said Shepherd.

Even if the fire department is successful in selling the repossessed fire trucks they still face a high overhead. Money is still owed on the building and much of the equipment inside. There are notes on the two trucks in service and outstanding gasoline bills.

Department leaders know they must maintain or in some cases regain the confidence of taxpayers.

"We are investigating this very seriously and trying to get to the bottom of it. And we have every intention on resolving the problem at hand," assured Shepherd.

The Appleby Fire Department is responding to emergencies and has two trucks to fight fires.

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