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Wednesday, March 29, 2017 This Week's Paper

City, port plan to purchase boat

Port of Tacoma and city of Tacoma plan to purchase a boat that will perform security patrols and handle firefighting needs. Currently Tacoma Fire Department (TFD) has one fireboat, Commencement, available. The other is out of commission.

On Sept. 23 Port of Tacoma Commission approved entering into an interlocal agreement with the city to purchase and operate a boat. It will be 32 feet long and made of aluminum. It will be able to pump 1,750 gallons of water per minute.

Eric Holdeman, director of security for the port, said the size of the boat is ideal for navigating shallow water. The estimated cost of the boat is about $665,000. The city will contribute $180,000 toward the purchase, while the port will spend $121,000. The federal Department of Homeland Security has provided a grant for $364,000.

TFD will pay for the cost of maintaining and operating the boat. Port crews will do the maintenance work.

The boat will be moored under Murray Morgan Bridge. The agreement calls for it to go out on three security patrols per week.     

Commissioner Clare Petrich noted the two governments have talked for a long time about acquiring such a boat. "It is great to see it happening," she remarked.

Port CEO John Wolfe said the agreement will control costs while allowing both governments to achieve an important goal. "This security situation is one we have grappled with for some time."

Tacoma City Council's Public Safety, Human Rights and Education Committee was briefed on the subject later that day.

Fire Chief Ron Stephens said crews at station 6 are trained to work on Commencement. He told council members there would be no additional personnel costs to the department resulting from the new boat.

He noted this additional boat will provide a greater level of public safety along the waterfront. When Commencement recently underwent repairs, TFD had no other boat available to fight fires from the water. Together, the two boats can pump 8,000 gallons of water per minute for firefighting, he added.

Having another boat will extend the life of Commencement, Stephens said. 

The committee recommended approving the agreement. The full council will vote on it soon. Should they approve it, the boat is scheduled to be delivered by the end of next March.

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