Town receives fire truck from ‘sister’ city

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, September 20, 2005

What’s in a name? A kinship that defies distance.

Nine residents of Monticello, Ill., made the trek to Monticello,Miss., in a caravan that included a fire truck, a dump truck,several privately owned vehicles and a satellite news van todeliver disaster relief supplies to their sister city.

The fire truck was among the items donated by one Monticello toanother. The dump truck was used to haul other items and returnedhome.

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“They don’t even have to change the name on the truck,”Monticello, Ill., Mayor Bill Mitze joked.

The Illinois convoy pulled into the fire station Mondayafternoon to an audience of clapping city and county officials,firefighters, volunteers and residents.

Monticello, Miss., Mayor David Nichols met Mitze with a friendlyhug while saying, “Thank you. You don’t know what this means tous.”

The town, with a population of approximately 1,700, had beencompiling design specifications to send to the companies thatmanufacture fire trucks. The damage caused by Hurricane Katrina,however, “put those plans off the table.”

When Mitze contacted Nichols about the Illinois town’s desire tohelp and asked what was needed the fire truck didn’t come up in theconversation. Later, a remark by Nichols got Mitze curious and hebegan asking about the fire department and learned that the plansfor a new truck had just been shelved.

Monticello, Ill., with a population of nearly 5,500 people, hadretired the 1981 truck only last month and it seemed fitting thatit stay in a Monticello, Mitze said.

“We wanted to do something personal and something specific,” hesaid.

Monticello, Ill., Fire Chief Rick Dubson said the truck ispractically ready to roll on calls. While a new truck comes with noequipment, town aldermen allowed the department to keep the hoseson the truck. It only needs turnout uniforms and other gear torespond to calls.

Loaded down with tarps for damaged houses, nonperishable goodsand school supplies, Mitze, Dubson, two aldermen, the public worksdirector, a police officer and two employees of the local NBCaffiliate, WAND-TV, made the trip. They were returning hometoday.

“There’s a lot of people taking a lot of pride in this up here,”said Ken Hartman, editor and publisher of the Pilot County JournalRepublican, a weekly newspaper serving the Monticello, Ill.,area.

Monticello, Ill., Alderman Chris Corrie said the trip was worthit to see the faces of those who met them on their arrival.

“This puts a real name and a real face to it,” he said. “We’retaking home pictures. We didn’t want to just write a check tosomeone and not know where it went.”

Corrie said his only regret was that the trip was made severalweeks after the hurricane struck.

“We’re just sorry we couldn’t come down a few days or a weekearlier and help with the cleanup,” he said.

Any donated items not needed locally will be transferred farthersouth to areas that need them, Nichols said.