The North Kingstown Fire Department outlined how it plans to spend $832,000 in grants to the Town Council Monday night, including upgrades to equipment, communications and training. One item on the list, however, left some councilors uneasy.
The biggest ticket item is a new fire boat, costing $681,000. The new unit would replace the current boat, which is 22 years old. According to the fire department’s marine committee, the service life of that boat is 30 years. This is the first time the department will purchase a new boat in more than 40 years. In recent years, every replacement boat has been donated to the fire department.
M2-37 Firefighting System is equipped with advanced life support equipment and is considered a chemical biological radiological and nuclear response vessel to help protect the growing Port of Davisville.
Between Davisville, now the fifth largest auto importer port in North America, and the countless marinas dotting the North Kingstown coastline, the marine committee stated that the boat is much needed in efforts to ensure safety on NK’s coast and boost response time.
According to Deputy Fire Chief Scott Kettelle, the new boat would help avoid situations like one back in 1989 when three firefighters were injured responding to a person in the water off of Jamestown. The incident occurred in January and the firefighters suffered from severe hypothermia while one suffered a permanent injury due to the cold temperatures.
“The new equipment will help to protect the bay, the commercial vessels, boaters, beaches and shoreline effectively and safely for years to come,” the report stated.
Though the grant money would cover the cost of the boat and maintenance for five years, Councilor Kerry McKay felt that the boat may be a financial burden down the road.
“To me, it looks like a gift that is going to cost the town money down the road,” said McKay, who added that this boat would be “fantastic” to boost safety on the water.
Additionally, Councilor Richard Welch added that the new boat is "very technical" and its state-of-the-art jet drive may be more susceptible to problems and maintenance issues than previously anticipated.
The NKFD estimates the boat will cost about $2,600 annually with an average of 500 hours of service.
The Asset Management Commission had its doubts regarding the piece of equipment and its subsequent cost to maintain. According to the commission, it “is not unreasonable to assume that for an asset like this, 10 percent of the purchase price would be required annually for maintenance; approximately $70,000.”
The commission also worried that the boat would require additional personnel, despite the fire department’s assurances that would not be the case. Additionally, they stated that nearby communities have similar assets that are not in use due to lack of availability of spare parts.
The $832,000 grant comes from the Department of Homeland Security’s Port Security grant fund.
According to Fire Chief Fenwick Gardiner, the boat is expected to be delivered later this year.