SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

April 29, 2013

Ipswich gets Coast Guard boat for free

By Jonathan Phelps
Staff writer

---- — IPSWICH — The town now has a specialized police boat.

The Police Department received the used 25-foot Defender Class law enforcement and rescue vessel after it was deemed surplus by the U.S. Coast Guard, police Chief Paul Nikas said.

It was stationed in Freeport, Texas, before being shipped to town on a flatbed truck earlier this month, he said.

It is a hardy boat manufactured by SAFE Boats International that has six years of active service, Nikas said. The boats are built to last 20 years and can be used for rapid response in all seasons and weather.

“They are considered to be the elite law enforcement and government boat,” Nikas said. “It is very rare they make it down to a local level, especially a town like Ipswich.”

The town had budgeted $75,000 this fiscal year for a new boat, with an additional $37,000 requested next fiscal year to fit it with engines and electronics.

The Coast Guard boat itself was free, but the town paid for it to be shipped and outfitted with new equipment at a total cost of $65,000 to $75,000. The boats cost about $280,000 new, Nikas said.

“It is a once-in-a-lifetime deal,” he said. “Municipalities can’t afford these types of boats.”

Such a boat is needed because the town has 33 miles of coastline and many beaches, recreational boating and commercial soft-shell fishing, Nikas said.

The town has been looking to buy a new boat for about a year after it was determined that the town’s 24-foot Parker had outlived its “service life” as a patrol boat, he said.

“It is an excellent fishing boat,” Nikas said. “But it is not designed for law enforcement or search and rescue.”

While a SAFE boat was the first choice, it became clear the town could not afford a new one, Nikas said.

Sgt. Jonathan Hubbard and Patrolman Brian Reed worked with Nikas to obtain the boat through the General Services Administration surplus property division. The department also put together a bid looking to purchase a similar new boat for a lower cost.

“We never got a bid that fit our budget,” Nikas said.

Nikas said the department put in more than 30 bids for surplus boats but were passed over for federal and state agencies, such as the National Park Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Department of Agriculture. It wasn’t until receiving letters of support from federal and state representatives that the town was named a finalist for a boat.

The town was awarded the boat on April 5 over a municipality in Florida.

Nikas said the department will receive training from the Coast Guard on the boat. It should be on the water by mid-May, he said.

“We can’t wait to get it operational and see how much more capabilities it has over our present boat,” Nikas said. “It is going to be an impressive boat when it is finished.”

Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at jphelps@salemnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.