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County expects new boat will boost efficiency, lower costs
San Juan County's Department of Public Works has a new boat.
Built by Burlington-based Munson Boats, the 35-foot vessel, which features a front drop-gate, a small crane and 18 feet of unobstructed deck space, will enable Public Works to retire two of its aging 20-foot boats and allow the department — for the first time — to carry its own materials, heavy tools, small vehicles and equipment to various projects on outer islands.
“The three boats Public Works had before this acquisition are all 20-footers, designed as pleasure craft, not work boats,” said county Administrator Pete Rose. “And the old boats had become unreliable and expensive to maintain.”
According to Public Works' Mike Copas, manager of the department's equipment rental and motor pool division, the two 20-foot boats that the new 35-footer will replace have required $300,000 in combined replacement parts and labor over 17 years of wear and tear. The price tag for the new boat, which has yet to be named, is $325,000.
Public Works Director Russ Harvey said the new boat will be used primarily to shuttle crews and equipment to major project, and for maintenance of county buoys and docks on outer islands.
“Until now we have not had the capacity to carry even deck planking to repair sites on outer islands," Harvey said. "That’s often meant we had to wait until we could piggyback on someone else’s barge load.”
Because of its features and its size, Rose said that the new boat will help Public Works be more flexible and efficient. He said that it's similar to the investment the department made in updating its fleet of trucks to "hook-lift" vehicles, which can be quickly reconfigured give the task at hand, whether it be hauling, sanding or plowing snow.
"They’ve allowed us to do a lot more with fewer people and to have less equipment to maintain," Rose said. "Given the county’s shrinking financial resources, inefficiency is not an option."