Central Heights VFD will fill in for now-disbanded Appleby VFD

APPLEBY, TX (KTRE) - Million dollar homes and businesses have always depended on the Appleby Volunteer Fire Department, until recently. As reported last month, the department closed due to 'mismanagement of funds.' however, no illegal activity has been found yet.

East Texas News found out that the township's leaders are now looking at how to move forward in 2013.

The Appleby Volunteer Fire Department is no more, but the building remains, along with about a $1 million debt. The City of Appleby is preventing a bank repossession of a facility that rivals fire departments in larger cities.

"We are in the process of purchasing the building from the bank that has the lien on it for the fire department," Gerald Hebert, Appleby's mayor, said.

That is quite a capital expense, considering Appleby has no city taxes, but it does have the Appleby Gas System.

"The majority of our revenue comes from the Appleby Gas System," Hebert said.

The plan is to convert the space to a city hall and community center, something the city has goals of building this year anyway.

Space will be left for the Central Heights Volunteer Fire Department.

"They're filling in for the old Appleby Fire Department, and they'll be using it until a new group can organize, which is going to take a few months," Hebert said.

The ultimate goal is to reestablish a new Appleby Volunteer Fire Department capable of maintaining tax-provided emergency service district funds. It's the biggest lesson learned by a former fire chief who inherited money problems from prior leadership.

"They have to realize they are accountable for that money now because it's tax dollar money, and more so than ever, they are accountable how it's spent, and where it goes," Mike Shepherd, the former chief of the Appleby Volunteer Fire Department, said.

Finances aside, Appleby residents are told their homes and property are protected in the event of a fire.

"Central Heights will cover. Garrison will cover. Nacogdoches will cover us. We have good coverage."

The Appleby City Council is scheduled to meet next week with the bank to finalize the building purchase. Central Heights Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jimmy Russell says the district is covered for fire protection. Russell says he'll comment more on the department's new assumed duties after final agreements are reached.

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