Federal grant will pay for new police boat

A $375,000 Port Security Grant will allow the Milford Police Department to buy a multi-use 32-foot patrol boat that will be used for patrols and searches in Long Island Sound.

Mayor Ben Blake said the Police Department has been trying to buy a new boat for several years, but tight budgets haven’t allowed it.

“Now the city taxpayers will not have to pay for it,” Blake said.

Deputy Chief Gerald Butler credited Officer Jeff Nielsen and Lt. Brandon Marschner with securing the grant. Other nearby cities received grants, too, but Milford appears to have gotten the largest one in this region: Bridgeport, for example, got a $269,000 grant, Stamford got $221,000, and Norwalk got $128,000. Other cities received smaller amounts for various projects and purchases.

Milford plans to use its money to buy a 32-foot enclosed-cabin vessel with state-of-the-art side scan sonar, a searchlight, GPS, a new communications system, video recording capabilities, and the ability to carry members of the police dive team and gear to respond to various emergencies.

The Police Department had a 32-foot vessel, but it has been out of service for about five years. Butler said the city got it from the federal government and it was aging and getting too costly to repair.

So the department has been using its 23-foot patrol boat, but that one isn’t enclosed and so is not as useful in cold-weather emergencies.

The department also has a couple of small inflatable boats for responding to water emergencies.

It will take some time yet to get the new boat. Butler hopes the department will have it by next boating season. In the meantime, the department will rely on the smaller boat and the inflatable in case of emergencies.

The department hasn’t selected a boat yet but is searching for one that fits its needs.

Butler said the grant will just pay for the cost of the boat, not maintenance or dock fees.

“But there are also grants available to pay those costs,” he said.

The Port Security Grant Awards are funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

According to a FEMA website, the grant program provides funding for transportation infrastructure that promotes security among port authorities.

Alderman Paula Smith asked Butler if the FEMA grant comes with any stipulations.

Butler said Milford would be expected to respond to regional emergencies.

“But we typically do that anyway,” he said.

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