Southold donates retired police boat to Greenport Fire Department

Greenport Village is still working on getting the proper fire boat it needs, but in the meantime, officials will make due with an upgraded police boat courtesy of Southold Town.

After months of discussion with the village, and a failed auction that saw no takers, the Southold Town Board on Tuesday approved the donation of a retired police boat to Greenport Village.

In the event of an emergency on the water or waterfront, the boat will provide transport for the Greenport Fire Department’s marine rescue squad, made up of volunteer department members who have undergone special training for water rescues, and other first responders. The donated vessel, a 27-foot 1998 World Cat with a fiberglass hull, which is currently stored at the Southold police yard, will replace the village’s current rig — a 21-foot former lobster boat plagued with engine troubles, according to Bob Jester, a former Greenport Fire Department captain who has been spearheading efforts to secure a new boat.

According to Greenport mayor Kevin Stuessi, the donated boat, which he expects will be in the village’s possession in the coming weeks and in the water by spring, is “in very good condition for its age and has great electronics and strong motors.”

“The village is in dire need of a proper fire marine boat,” Mr. Stuessi said in a telephone interview. “We’ve got one small boat, but it’s far too inadequate to protect the village on the water. This was a great opportunity for us to work hand-in-hand with [Southold] town to get something in the interim which could much better serve our needs, until such time as we’re able to get funding for something even larger that would offer even more support for the village for any potential marine rescue and firefighting needs.”

Like the existing boat, the police boat does not have a water pump for fire-fighting capabilities. For two years, the village and the Greenport Fire Department have tried to secure the funding necessary — nearly $1 million — to purchase a new vessel. Last March, the department reached out to the office of U.S. Rep. Nick LaLota (R-Amityville) to apply for grant funding. The following month, the department learned the requirements for the particular grant they sought changed after the new Congress was sworn in. The village switched gears, Mr. Stuessi explained, and officials are currently applying for state grants for which they qualify. The village would like “to have [a new boat] on order within the next 12 months,” Mr Stuessi said. “One of the challenges is there’s a long lead time on these types of pieces of equipment, close to a year or even more. We’ve got to have the money first before we can order it.”

A proper fire boat — essentially a floating fire truck — would have come in handy, the mayor said, back in March, when a fire ignited on the dock outside Claudio’s Waterfront.

“It was overnight at the end of their pier, and [a new fire fighting boat] could have provided additional assistance directly from the water, instead of having to bring the trucks out on the pier,” Mr. Stuessi said.

He added that a water-pumping boat would also be critical for more than putting out boat fires and blazes that ignite along the waterfront. A newer and more dependable vessel would help first responders deploy for emergencies at local marinas, other waterfront locales as well as on the water.

“We are literally just one square mile, but have one of the most important waterfronts in the entire state of New York, which is also nationally protected with a number of historic structures,” the mayor added. “It’s extremely important that we have the proper support to be able to deal with any types of emergencies, whether it’s on the water or at any of the buildings that immediately abut the water, including a number that are right at the edge or on piers as well.”