Bell County Sheriff Eddy Lange said on Friday that the fire trucks reported stolen from Little River-Academy were found.
"Sometime late yesterday, the mayor of Little-River Academy reported to his police chief, or wanted to report, the three trucks as stolen," Lange said. According to the chief, they were never actually "stolen."
The problem was ownership.
According to the sheriff, "the mayor says the trucks belong to the community. The President of Little-River Academy Fire Department Association says the titles are in their name and belong to them. So that's the issue."
The volunteer fire department has faced several issues in the past few months, including announcing that it would be dissolving on June 27.
Before that, three volunteer firefighters at Little-River Academy Volunteer Fire Department were arrested and charged with impersonating public servants.
The sheriff said he knows all of the players involved, including the city council, mayor; and he has a personal interest in what goes on in this community, like everyone does.
He called the president of the association and told her, "if peace officers were to see someone driving Little River trucks, they are subject to being stopped and arrested for unauthorized use of the vehicle."
He also said he told her it would be best for everyone if they would voluntarily surrender the trucks until the city and the volunteer fire department can sort it out in court. The trucks were then surrendered.
The sheriff said he will release the trucks to whoever a judge says to release them to. It may be months, if there are appeals.
Sheriff Lange confirmed there were numerous threats made from one person to the other surrounding the dispute. The sheriff also said he tried to call and invite the mayor today to tell his side of the story, but he was unable to be contacted.
The sheriff said in civil law, when you dissolve a corporation, it's up to the board to decide what to do. But in this situation, he doesn't know the rules. He said he does know if grant money was used to buy the equipment, the people that donated the money might have a say in what to do with the equipment.
The sheriff also confirmed a complaint was filed by the mayor against a firefighter.
"It's a shame adults, and being volunteers, that they can't get along better. But this too shall pass. We'll be back in business. Citizens of Little River-Academy will get it back in business," said the sheriff.
In the event of a fire, the sheriff said access to the trucks would be through him.
"I'm an old firefighter," he said. "I would have to check with the insurance company and see if I'm qualified to drive the truck."
When asked what his main message is to the citizens of Little River Academy, Sheriff Lange had this to say:
"We'll get through this. we're a strong community and a good community. This is a tough time, but we're going to take care of business. We've stepped up extra patrols... and we'll do what we can to try and help our citizens. Rest assured, we're going to take care of business."