05 24 2015

City Moves Forward After Fire

By Julie Vaughan
After a devastating fire Nov. 6 to the Canton City Office Complex (COC), work has started to pick up and move forward.
The incident occurred just after 1 p.m. while the four city employees were inside doing their everyday duties, and city secretary/finance office Julie Seymore along with city manager Lonny Cluck were attending a regional disaster drill planning meeting at the Van Zandt County Courthouse.
During the meeting at the courthouse, Cluck received a telephone call from assistant city secretary Debra Johnson informing him that an 18-wheeler had hit the COC and the building was on fire.
Cluck, who had stepped out of the meeting to take the phone call, immediately stepped back in the meeting telling Canton Fire Chief Bud Sanford and Seymore “This is for real. We need to go. An 18-wheeler hit the COC and it’s on fire.”
Arriving on the scene, fire personnel from Canton, along with South Van Zandt Volunteer Fire Department, and neighboring cities who had been attending the training exercise were already on the scene taking care of the blaze.
The 18-wheeler, loaded with rock, according to reports, was driven by 83-year-old WC Brooks of Athens.
Brooks was killed upon impact, and pronounced dead at the scene.
Department of Public Safety Trooper Andrew Faglie said, “A couple had come out of (VZCR) 4126 traveling east on (State Highway) 64 and the semi were eastbound. He (truck driver) t-boned the SUV and lost control and went into the ditch and into the annex and the building and the truck caught on fire.”
Canton Mayor Cary Hilliard said although the city is still waiting on the insurance adjustor, the city is moving forward and have already cleared out files and as much furniture that could be salvaged.
Hilliard said all personnel files were saved, and as much as 80 percent of the documents in the COC were saved with some extent of smoke damage.
Water billing has been moved back out to the State Highway 64 office after temporarily operating at the old city hall located on Tyler Street in downtown.
Anyone wishing to drop off their water bill or take care of city business in person may do so at the office space located behind the City Office Complex on SH 64.
Water customers still have the option of using the drop box at the old city hall on Tyler Street to drop off their water bills.
“We will be talking about what to do next at our council meeting next Tuesday,” Hilliard said on Monday. “We may want to temporarily move a building in the location on State Highway 64 or look at building a new city hall. I just don’t know.”
“I never was happy about that location,” Hilliard continued. “I always think the city hall should be in a location that should serve the public better.”
“It was a horrible accident and I am thankful no city employee was physically hurt or killed,” Hilliard added. “The response from our fire personnel was wonderful and because the fire departments responded so quickly that is how we were able to save so much.”

Photo by Julie Vaughan
A charred shell of the Canton City Office Complex stands with a huge black hole in the side of the building after an 18-wheeler left the roadway and struck it last Tuesday. The truck driver was the only person to perish as a result of the crash. Inside filing cabinets and furniture were being sorted through to see what could be saved.

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