The Board of Finance has approved $350,000 sought by the Police Department to replace an aging boat purchased in 1998.
Police Chief Dale Call told the finance panel Wednesday that, when it was first acquired, the 27-foot Boston Whaler, also known as "Marine 1," was a state-of-the-art vessel.
He said the department expected to get "10 years of service" from the boat, "But we pushed replacement to this year, and we can't wait any longer," Call said.
He said marine officers looked at a number of options before deciding on a new "33-footer" with an aluminum hull that will be "easier to maintain." The new boat would also have three waterproof compartments.
Call said the boat also needs to be air conditioned because of the high temperatures marine officers are exposed to on a hot summer day.
"We also found that without heat in the winter, it gets cold," he said. And that's not good when officers rescue someone from frigid waters. "We need to keep people warmed when you pull them out," he said.
Call said the marine patrol is needed because Westport is a waterfront community with active recreational and commercial boating. He said police get 400 water-related calls a year.
He said that being a marine officer is not just about "cruising in the sun when the weather if fine," but "a dangerous job." Call said the town makes sure the Fire Department has the best equipment possible, "and so should the marine officers."
Call said his department tried to find alternative ways of funding the purchase, including federal grant money. "We got nothing," he said. "We were eligible for nothing."
Finance board member Tom Lasersohn asked what the estimated life expectancy of the new boat. Call said that it could be expected to last about 30 years.
"I'm all for buying the boat," said Brian Stern, the board vice chairman. He said that people who participate in other recreational sports in town contribute to the cost of that activity. "It might be worth considering if providing this service to recreational boaters, if some sort of fee can be charged," Stern said.
The board approved the purchase by a unanimous vote.