The abrupt shutdown of emergency vehicle manufacturer American LaFrance last week will have no immediate effect on the North Charleston and American LaFrance Fire Museum and Educational Center, according to city officials.
The $6.6 million museum, built and operated by the city, houses what the museum calls "the priceless corporate collection of American LaFrance antique vehicles," along with exhibits about firefighting and fire safety. The vehicles are on loan to the museum under a 2006 agreement with American LaFrance.
"The North Charleston and American LaFrance Fire Museum and Educational Center remains open and will continue to provide top-notch fire safety and history education to the public," North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said. "The company's closure does not affect the museum's functions and day-to-day operations."
The 27,000-square-foot museum off Centre Pointe Drive near the Tanger Outlets opened in 2007. The museum remained open when American LaFrance sought bankruptcy protection the following year, and at the time Summey said that if the company wanted to sell the exhibits, "the city would be interested in buying them."
Councilman Bob King said the city has a long-term agreement with American LaFrance covering the equipment displayed in the museum.
The 2006 lease agreement was for a five-year term with options to renew for three more five-year terms. So the current lease would expire near the end of 2016, with the possibility of renewing for up to 10 more years.
"The city has heard no suggestion that the extensions would not be approved," said Ryan Johnson, spokesman for North Charleston. "The trucks are historical artifacts well worth protections, and the city believes that American LaFrance, and any possible successor, do and will view it the same way."
North Charleston expects to spend more than $600,000 this year to operate the facility.
"It's been a pretty good draw," said King. "We have taught a lot of kids about fire safety."
Reach David Slade at 937-5552