by: Dave Faherty Updated:
In two months, the Hickory Fire Department was supposed to get a brand new $700,000 ladder truck. But that won't happen after the company building it shut down.
The new ladder truck was supposed to replace a truck that is almost 15 years old at Fire Station Three.
The city went with American LaFrance, a company they had used before and has made thousands of trucks for more than 100 years.
The gates at the American LaFrance plant in South Carolina are padlocked and the 150 employees laid off Friday evening. Staff with the city of Hickory said they visited the plant just last month to look at the progress of the ladder truck they ordered.
Mayor Rudy Wright was stunned when Channel 9 told him the company that started production in the 1800s is ceasing operations.
"That is a tremendous tragedy for one of the great brand names in American history," he said. "I feel for the employees. I can ensure you who were working hard to the last day to try to do the right thing."
Channel 9 learned that American LaFrance built Hickory's very first fire truck back in 1914 when the department had only one full-time employee.
"Thousands of trucks across the country. It is one of the most quality companies in America," collector Lee Huffman said.
When Channel 9 called the company Monday, no one answered.
In a press release, American LaFrance said it was closing the facilities because of unexpected financial struggles.
The city said they paid much of the money for the $700,000 truck upfront because the company offered a discount. They are not sure if and when they'll get the truck which was scheduled to arrive in early spring but did said they got a performance bond as insurance so they should be able to get their money back.
Huffman and his family own several old American LaFrance trucks. He hopes the company delivers.
"It puts the city of Hickory in a bad position as far as getting a new truck," he said.
City leaders said they will meet Tuesday morning to discuss their options. The mayor said the city is protected and will get a new truck.