Rescue boat sails through special meeting City Council moves forward with lifesaving vessel

Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent
Fire-Rescue Chief Mike Murphy presents the rationale for the new boat. Marco's new city council held a special meeting Wednesday afternoon, considering and ultimately leaving untouched the previous council's approval of a new fire-rescue vessel for the island.


Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent Fire-Rescue Chief Mike Murphy presents the rationale for the new boat. Marco's new city council held a special meeting Wednesday afternoon, considering and ultimately leaving untouched the previous council's approval of a new fire-rescue vessel for the island.

City Council moves forward with lifesaving vessel

At the end of the meeting, everything was right back where it started. Marco's new lifesaving vessel will become a reality.

The Marco Island City Council held a special-called meeting on short notice Wednesday, outside the usual schedule of council sessions, to deal with one issue — purchase of a city fire-rescue boat. The lease-purchase, with an eventual price tag more than $400,000, had been approved by the previous city council in October on a 6-1 vote.

Since that action, though, three sitting council members lost their re-election bids, and a fourth, Bill Trotter, was term-limited out. New council chairman Joe Batte said that "several members" of the council had asked the city manager to revisit the decision, before any more city funds were committed.

"We're $80,000 in the hole" if council decided to pull the plug that day, said Batte, but a payment of $129,105, already approved, was due to go to the manufacturer, Metalcraft Marine of Cape Vincent, New York, so if the new council wanted to have a say, they couldn't wait for the scheduled December council session.

With a fluency born of long practice extolling the virtues of the proposed vessel, Marco Island Fire-Rescue Chief Mike Murphy took the board through a thorough – over an hour – exposition of the new craft's advantages, features, benefits, and even cost savings over the long run. Assisted by Fire-Rescue Capt. Tom Bogan, he compared the maintenance and replacement expenses of instead keeping the department's current Donzi, a gasoline-powered outboard-driven boat built of fiberglass, as well as the issue of safety.

The Metalcraft boat, with a steel hull, will be powered by Diesel engines operating jet drives, eliminating the hazards of propellers in the water while rescuing swimmers or accident victims, and the potential of a catastrophic fuel explosion.

"You have to shut off the engines to pick up people from the water," rendering the boat unmaneuverable, said Murphy. "We're dragging people over the side of the boat," as the current vessel has no platform or access for that purpose.

The primary purpose of the proposed boat, he stressed again and again, is rescue, not firefighting. But even for firefighting, the new boat's Diesel engines will power pumps, providing yet another advantage over the Donzi.

Batte noted that he had voted against the new boat during budget subcommittee meetings under the previous council, although he voted for it in the final, full council vote.

"I tried twice to get it tabled, and moved to the new council" for an up or down vote, he said.

New councilor Larry Honig expressed reservations about the concept of revisiting decisions made by previous versions of the city council.

"I'm troubled. It puts people on notice that if you deal with Marco Island, you better watch the elections," he said.

Even after Murphy's presentation, council members had many questions about the boat, the costs, and what the city's mission and responsibilities in providing fire and rescue services offshore. Councilman Ken Honecker, in particular, asked about additional costs for equipment — included, he was told, possible alternate manufacturers — considered, but not fulfilling the city's specifications, and whether the city could seek reimbursement for rescue services provided, as is done for ambulance users.

Eventually, a consensus emerged that Marco Island, an island community heavily oriented toward water recreation, needed to have the capability of performing water-based rescue and fire suppression, and Murphy and his department's six years of research and planning had yielded the appropriate, cost-effective choice.

Councilman Chuck Kiester made a motion to approve the boat, but after discussion, the councilors determined, with the help of City Attorney Burt Saunders, that by simply taking no action, they would allow the previous decision to stand, allowing the boat to move forward.

"I don't know why they had to revisit" the rescue boat, said former councilman Jerry Gibson, a strong proponent, watching from the audience. "This is just the new council trying to flex its muscles."

Marco Island Fire-Rescue Foundation president Dianna Dohm, who sent out a blast e-mail urging approval for the vessel, and asking members to show up at the council chambers and voice their support, expressed her satisfaction at the meeting's outcome. The audience filled most of the room, and a majority of public speakers backed the new fire-rescue boat.

"We're very happy. We're a boating community," said Dohm. "Protecting Marco Island citizens is our mission, and we need this boat."

The next council meeting, rescheduled from Dec. 10, is set for Dec. 20. From remarks made in the council communications forum at the end of Wednesday's session, the never-ending saga of utility rates will get a further airing.

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Comments » 20

FECOYLE writes:

This is one of the issues the previous Counclmen lost their re election over. This is absolutly crazy spending 400000 for a boat. This is akin to the former President of a local college making 800000 plus a year.The people that allowed that to happen were very wrong as the are the people that allowed this 400000 expenditure

MrBreeze writes:

Let's see the hour meter and a log matching every "rescue" of the new boat. You know as well as I this is just another "toy" for the fire dept. and City Officials to play with.

I am waiting to see the "training" time that will be spent on this boat. The taxpayers will pay for the boat,fuel,and the paychecks of all on the boat on the clock.

What is next a Marco Island Helicopter?

Where are the new guys stopping the spending spree?

Are you already not thinking of the taxpayers who elected you??????

I think they have already dropped the ball. All talk no actions. What a disappointment to see this at the first big decision after the election.

They speak of the "donzi" as it is a piece of crap. Why not just us "waverunners" like the Sheriff uses. and keep the current boat.

MrBreeze writes:

Larry Honig you have let the Citizens of Marco Island down. You were elected to "revisit previous decisions" by the City Council. Now that you are seated you want to be "neutral" and stand by and watch the money be squandered away?

You and the others ran on a platform to "end" this type of squander and you just go along and do nothing?

What if any is your reasoning on this? This is unbelievable.

lauralbi1 writes:

MrBreeze: What you consider squander many of us consider good planning. If the boat saves one life that the older boat would not have, it is worth it. And I am certain it will save many more lives.
Mr. Honig has not let anyone down. He has in fact kept his promise to act to support Marco Island and to assist in moving Marco Island forward.
At some point, you are going to have to accept the fact that Marco Island is NOT an exclusive Retirement Community. Retirees are a small portion of those that live here.
Ed Issler

ajm3s writes:

I would like to share and enjoy Collier County's evaluation of how
many fire rescue boats are assigned; especially since the emphasis of
the city council is now focused on rescue and EMS NOT primarily fire suppression.

I have included a link to Collier county and its current inventory of ALS/Rescue boat:

".. and the counties only Advanced Life Support Fire/Rescue Boat" is located at Isles of Capri.

Is this true? Or just firefighting/rescue bravado?

Given the "published" response times from the city's presentation, I
would like to personally ask boaters, both power and sail, who is the
typical "first" responder in a crisis. In all emergency situations time is of the essence.

Which leads me to my next point, the eventual need for more assets to
reduce response time, followed by more personnel. If it took 6 years
for the city to convince council to upgrade a fire/rescue boat, I suspect
in 3-4 years you will be seeing the initiation of more assets to
support fire boat safety concerns.

I do take a STRONG exception to the city dismissing the role of the USCG in rescue operations (in its claim it is relegated to homeland security). To minimmize the USCG role in rescue operations is quite astonishing; especially from professional safety officers. All rescue operations require, yes require assistance from ALL governmental agencies that ply the waters.

Honestly, every boater on the water is in the marine rescue business by law, supported through training provided by a host of marine safety organizations including private community based.

For the record, A+ on the presentation by the city. But I thought the folks were concerned on spending which included where they spent their money.

I hope the next time the council chair asks the council a fundamental question if Marco Island is in the marine/rescue business, he reviews the extent of Marco Island in rescue operations given Collier County's claim:

".. the counties only Advanced Life Support Fire/Rescue Boat" is located at Isles of Capri.

My conclusion: Collier County also established that it is in the marine rescue business, but it chose Isles of Capri waters, NOT Marco Island.

Why is that? I thought Marco Island was a net contributor of tax dollars to Collier County. So when the Council confirmed the city's commitment to marine rescue operations, did it begin with a conversation with Collier County?

Or is this just, Marco Island willing to add more assets above and beyond what is provided by a host of government and private agencies?

If I recall, this discussion in months past was centered about a cost/benefit perspective! In that regard I think Collier County got it right and Marco Island again, simply dismissed it. The sails were set when the council made the assertion it was in the marine rescue business because the wind was coming from Mr. Murphy et al.

MrBreeze writes:

Mr. Issler, If Marco Island is not a retirement destination what are you doing here?
I purchased my home in 2002 and looked forward to retirement here. You are so wrong in saying that "retirees are a small portion of those that live here".

Look around. My neighbors are all retired. I go to the store mostly retired older folks. I go to the beech, older folk, visitors and tourists. I go to the local bar on Saturday night I was the youngest person in the place and at 11.00 pm the next to the last in the place listening to the band playing to a empty bar.

So Mr.Issler tell me where this "non retirement" crowd is on Marco Island as I still am the "youngster" as my neighbors call me. They find it hard to believe my age and planning my retirement so soon. Again, what are you doing here?

As far as the fire boat this is another step to "exclusive" living on Marco Island. I can hear it now "we have a state of the art fire boat" for the realtor to use as a sales pitch to MR&MRS. boat owner who has come to the island looking to purchase. We also have this brand new bridge so you can speed as fast in you car as your boat. "Do not worry if you crash our state of the art EMS will take great care of you on land and sea".
Next, like I say we need a Marco Island "Air rescue helicopter" so we can handle the transport to a "level one trama center".

This is the "New Marco Island " demographic as some see it. Jet set boater, fast cars, aircraft and of coarse "Multi-millon dollar home. This "support" system the city is putting in place is all part of the "big picture" I have been seeing and writing about for years. It is a plan that unfortunatly does not include many of the current residents of Marco Island in Deltona Homes with lower tax rates no boat or fast car or aircraft ownership.

The plan is to have this infustructure in place to "market" the island to a new clientel. One with a lot of money.

I figure I will remain with my fast classic car, classic chopper motorcycle, rock music loud as I like it that way but my classic Deltona Home will have to remain. That may be a problem fitting in to the "New Marco Island" but who cares.

MrBreeze writes:

What happened to Honecker, Petricca and Sacher on this? They voted to let the purchase continue? What happened to the pledge of spending ending after the election just three weeks ago. Sounds like STRP 2 whats going on guys?????

MrBreeze writes:

Question, How long will it take for a "special tax levey or milledge" to appear to fund "Fire & Ems services" on Marco island once they really find out how much the boat will cost including "joy rides" with diesel fuel at a all time high.

It's Baywatch relived, bring on the girls in binkini's

lauralbi1 writes:

Klaus (Bill McMullan): Thank you for posting soime of my past blogs. They remind me just how objective and factual I have been. But these blogs are not about you and I. These blogs are about issues. Get that through your small little brain.

You know what the Rotary here on Marco should do. They should find the District Attorney in Miami that dropped the fraud charges against Bill McMullan back when. They should have him as a guest speaker to discuss the fraud charges, what Mr. McMullan did and why he dropped the charges.
Now that would make for a good meeting/speaker!!! How about it Klaus. Will you attend ???
Ed Issler

captnjimbo writes: usual a well thought out post.

WizeOlMarco writes:

"...Councilman Chuck Kiester made a motion to approve the boat, but after discussion, the councilors determined, with the help of City "...Attorney Burt Saunders, that by simply taking no action, they would allow the previous decision to stand, allowing the boat to move forward..."

First act for the new representation, sidestep taking any accountability. Wow.

MrBreeze writes:

WizeOlMarco, Indeed I am shocked at the conduct of the new Council. As I say it has just been three weeks from the election and they just stand by and let this spending spree go on.

I think Honecker,Patricca and Sacher better start explaining themselves on what they are thinking on this "fireboat". I never thought this would possibly happen.

k-daze writes:

Everyone has overlooked the biggest problem with the fire boat. Who's going to staff it. First, you have to be a captain to operate the vessel. So, the city has to train a minimum of 6 captains (1 per shift x 3 shifts plus 3 backups). Second, where are the personnel going to come from to staff the vessel. The ladder truck or the engine will have to be taken out of service and the personnel moved to the fire boat. Now guess what, delayed response waiting for a mutual aid truck from the mainland for your house fire.

MrBreeze writes:

K-Daze Great point. The City is totally out of touch and this Fire Chief along with them. As in most communities the Fire Dept always has a wish list for purchase. This Fire Boat is over the top and just plain foolish.

We need to name the new boat. Let's take a poll. I say like "Marco Spends it" or "Fools Money" for suggestions.

WizeOlMarco writes:

Why not buy a boat designed for 'in the canals and Marco River only', no Gulf of Mexico use, cross train the police force and make the boat detail one of the regular 'police car' routines with rotating staff? I've watched the 'we need a better boat' process, accept there is potential for needing water rescue and water side fire fighting, just do not understand the scale of the boat. What happened to the argument that the boat is needed for fire fighting capacity, which no longer is heard?

When the boat is delivered, turn it over to the Coast Guard to operate.

PS Will the new boat result in a better fire/police protection rating and lower insurance rates?

MrBreeze writes:

WizeOlMarco, The boat is for pure show. After all we are Marco Island we cannot have a mere "donzi" brand boat. We must have the very best as we are a "boating community" as this article reads.

So lets see, We are a boating community, rescue department, and we will fight fires also with this boat.

Lets not forget all the "special training sessions" that will take place with the new boat.
I think it's a bunch of lies the whole deal.

mhs513 writes:

What ever happened to taking out bids. They take the first option the lazy city staff recommends.

MrBreeze writes:

No, like all other cities they are "courted" by companies that sell equipment. New fire trucks, EMS units and all other gear usually are sold by sales reps or agents. So the minute someone mentions fireboat the sales person is hot on the phone to the best available that will pay the biggest commission from the sale. This way the bid process is sidestepped due to the "unique" purchase as it is called. This way the department that the equipment is deemed for gets their way in the purchase and the Taxpayer is stuck with the bill.

Again, Where are our new "council" to protect this kind of thing from getting pushed through.

Doodles writes:

Name for the boat -- "Hosed"

MrBreeze writes:

Doodles, Great Name!! "Hosed" or "Hosed Again"

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