Sheriff gets green light to acquire new boat built by federal funds

San Juan County Sheriff Rob Nou on Tuesday presented the County Council with more than 20 pages of documents and almost as many reasons why the council should approve obtaining a new boat for law enforcement, firefighting, EMS and marine rescue purposes in San Juan County.

One other reason that the Council gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up to the project may have been that the Department of Homeland Security has already approved a competitive grant of $785,000 to fund construction of the boat.

Nou may have helped his cause even more by telling the council that Emergency Management Coordinator Brendan Cowan had obtained a waiver from Homeland Security of a "local match" requirement originally part of the grant terms. The $200,000 or so in local matching funds might have made the deal impossible for a county budget still stretched tight by the recession.

Previously, the sheriff had proposed meeting that local match through a partnership in which local public safety agencies would contribute toward the boat's yearly maintenance and upkeep. San Juan EMS, and the Orcas Island and Lopez Island fire departments recently opted against joining that prospective partnership in part because the cost-benefit equation for each did not pencil out.

A five-page "Specification and Quotation" report from Munson boatbuilders in Burlington details the equipment and projected costs for a 35-foot Aluminum catamaran with a 96" landing-craft type bow door and twin Volvo marine diesels which can propel the boat at speeds over 40 miles per hour. The original grant proposal was for a 38-foot boat with an extensive equipment list, but Nou, Fire Chief Steve Marler and other potential users figured a slightly smaller boat with greater maneuverability would serve everybody's requirement and cost as much as $200,000 less.

The original specifications did not take into account that the PeaceIsland Medical Center emergency facilities would significantly reduce the number of EMS transfers to the mainland, Nou said. The estimate for the shorter boat from Munson boatbuilders came to about $571,000.

To provide for a 5-percent contingency, the County Council resolution, passed unanimously, set forth a total cost of $600,000 - all of which will come from the federal government. The federal General Services Administration will accept proposals from multiple sources, but Munson is thought to have a leg up because of its prior work for the county, its 50-year experience in the workboat business and its proximity to the San Juans.

The new boat is expected to replace San Juan Island Fire Department's fireboat Confidence and a 25-year-old Boston Whaler, both of which "are well past their useful lives," Nou said.

The Guardian, a 32-foot boat acquired in 2005 at a cost of about $260,000 and a replacement value of about $400,000, will replace the Boston Whaler and be stationed at Orcas Island. The county Public Works Department also operates a 35-foot aluminum landing-craft workboat and two 20-foot workboats.

Nou estimates that maintenance of the county fleet will be about $100,000 per year - although some of that cost will be allocated to the San Juan Island and Shaw Island fire departments and to operations grants from a number of agencies, including the Washington Department of Licensing, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Department of Homeland Security.

Design and contract negotiations, led by federal GSA contracting specialists, will continue through mid-summer. Building and testing the boat will take about one year.

Under the terms of the grant, the boat must be in service no later than Aug. 31, 2014.


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