HomeVoorhees NewsFire board sues over faulty truck

Fire board sues over faulty truck

By Sean Patrick Murphy

Fed up with a ladder truck that has a host of problems, the Voorhees Board of Fire Commissioners is filing a lawsuit to recoup $210,000.

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The companies named in the lawsuit are vehicle maker American LaFrance and dealership Campbell Supply Company. The amount sought was determined by how much the yearly lease is for ($140,000). The truck has been out of commission for about a year and a half.

Mark Ressa, who has been a volunteer firefighter since 2005, has accused the board of dilly dallying when it comes to the truck.

“The board of commissioners and chief of our department drag their feet whenever something needs to be fixed or replaced,” Ressa said, noting he is not exactly sure why. “If you ask anyone in our department it takes forever to get something fixed.

“Recently our lawn tractor was out of service and the grass grew for weeks and weeks and I’m still not sure if its been fixed,” he added.

“I don’t agree with the assertion that we’ve been dragging our feet,” Richard Tavani, solicitor for the board of fire commissioners, said.

According to Ressa, Ladder Truck 6624 has been an ongoing issue for almost two years.

The truck is a 2006 American LaFrance vehicle which is leased through Campbell Supply.

“The truck has had numerous electrical and hydraulic problems resulting in placing it out of service for over a year,” Ressa said. “The lease has no provision for a loaner truck while the truck is out of service, so the town is without one of the most valuable pieces of fire apparatus for over a year now.”

According to Ressa, one of the reasons the Board of Fire Commissioners purchased the truck is to achieve a better ISO rating for the residents and business owners of Voorhees. The acronym ISO stands for the insurance services office, which rates the fire departments’ capabilities, such as personnel, apparatus and other things.

“I doubt that ISO knows that this piece has been out of service so long, and not sure if that would change our rating, but I imagine it might be a factor,” Ressa said.

The truck being out of service did not affect the ISO rating because of mutual aid from other towns and because it was not out of service for a full year, Tavani said.

The truck’s five-year lease is about to end.

“It was out of service for what we feel was an inordinate amount of time,” Tavani said.

Campbell Supply Company maintains the truck and went “the extra yard” to try and fix problems, he said.

The number of problems led the board to file a complaint under the lemon law. The truck has been out of service for a total of a year-and-a-half out of the five years the fire district has owned it.

“This has caused us to unfortunately allocate funds to a truck that was not in service and that’s a detriment to both the district and to the residents of Voorhees,” Tavani said.

He added that the situation became complicated by the bankruptcy of American LaFrance. One example problem was that it took a long time to get parts.

“We believe that not only is the truck a lemon but we believe there is a cause of action under the consumer fraud statute,” Tavani said. “We just got to the point of frustration that it was time to file it.”

He said the commission had to legally give Campbell Supply Company and American LaFrance adequate time to try to address issues.

Tavani said filing a lawsuit is the last resort.

American LaFrance Director of Marketing Richard Ball said he is unaware of a lawsuit being filed against his company. Calls to Campbell Supply Company went unanswered.

The truck is currently back in service.


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