The Town of Van Etten has struggled for over two years with the dissolution of the village. One of those struggles has been the case of obtaining the copper chemical cart, a fire-fighting antique from the 1800s, that had originally resided at the Village of Van Etten Fire Company, which had been taken from the premises without the knowledge of the Town Board. Although the board’s aspirations to gain ownership of the cart have not been fulfilled, progress is still being made.
After the dissolution of the village of Van Etten, the town sold the fire company building and its contents at auction for a price of $73,937. After the auction, several items from the building had been taken, including an air compressor, items from its kitchen, and the copper chemical cart.
Since the chemical cart has gone missing, Van Etten Town Councilman Harold Shoemaker explained during a phone call that the cart is believed to be somewhere in Waverly. This information had been supplied to Shoemaker via the now-late Attorney Frank Como, who had acted as the Village of Van Etten’s attorney until its dissolution at the end of 2018 and his unfortunate passing in November of 2020. Shoemaker said during February’s town board meeting, held on the 11th, that roughly one week prior, he had talked with the former President of the Van Etten Fire Company Jim Ammack about the chemical cart. Shoemaker said Ammack had been “cordial” when they talked, and Shoemaker believes Ammack wants to see the cart come into the possession of the town.
Ammack, however, sees the cart as still legally being an asset of the Fire Company, and as such, the Department of State must be provided documentation proving the Fire Company had been in continuous service for five years before its closure in order to dispose of the cart. Como had been the one tending to organizing the documentation.
Como’s passing halted all progress on filing with the Department of State, which in turn has halted the town’s progress on gaining ownership of the chemical cart. According to Shoemaker, Ammack has been working on finding a new attorney to continue filing the paperwork. Once the Department of State has been satisfied, “[Ammack] said that he will . . . be in touch with [the board] and try to resolve this issue with [the chemical cart],” Shoemaker explained during the board meeting.
Still, the Van Etten Town Board finds itself in a difficult position. While the matter of the chemical cart is out of its hands, it has requested from Como’s office an invoice of the original sale of the Fire Company building. During the town board meeting held on Feb. 11, it was stated that out of the $73,937 paid to purchase the building and its contents, $68,000 has been paid to the town, and a planned $2,000 has been set aside for the local food bank. That leaves a balance of $3,937 that has yet to be seen.
“We assume that is what [Como’s office was] charging us for [their legal services],” Shoemaker stated during the board meeting, although this has not yet been confirmed. With the request of an itemized invoice from Como’s office, the board hopes to learn where this missing money has gone. Perhaps even more importantly, without an invoice explaining where the missing money is, if the town has to perform an audit at any point, then all responsibility falls on the town’s shoulders, making it imperative to have proper paperwork as soon as possible.
“They still haven’t hired another lawyer. That was Jan. 11,” Town Clerk Dawn Rose said during February’s board meeting in regard to Como’s office. Rose then referenced a message sent to her from Como’s office regarding the town’s request for an invoice: “[A representative of Como’s office] says, ‘I’m not sure what invoice you’re referring to. I do not have an attorney that is taking over for Frank. We’re just trying to close things up.’”
During the phone call, Shoemaker referenced how people will often ask if there is any news on the chemical cart. He expressed his hopes that the publication of this story will not only reassure citizens that the board is doing all that it can but also grow public interest in the history of the cart. Shoemaker explained that if the town is able to gain ownership of the cart, they plan on putting it on display for the public in order to promote the history of the town and the fire company as well as bringing it out for public events to help showcase local history.
The Town of Van Etten’s board meetings take place on the second Tuesday of every month.