Sheriff’s Department gets new firefighting boat

It's been several years since there has been a true firefighting boat in the Tri-Cities area and Ottawa County Marine Patrol officials and area firefighters could barely contain their excitement during an unofficial unveiling of the boat Monday afternoon at the Pettys Bayou boat launch. "There's not a lot of fire boats around,' said Spring Lake Township Fire Chief Rick Nuvill, who went along for an introductory ride. "Ludington just got the same boat. Muskegon Fire Department has one.'
Becky Vargo
May 18, 2011


Both Spring Lake Township and Grand Haven fire departments used to have fire-fighting boats, but they eventually became too expensive to maintain, and there was no money to replace motors or get a new boat, Nuvill said. Spring Lake quit using their boat a five or six years ago.

“We’ve had to fight boat fires from land,” Nuvill said.

To do that, Nuvill said crews ran long hose lines out across docks, which happened with a barge fire a few years ago. “It can be a very dangerous situation for firefighters,” he added.

The new boat, a Firehawk 26 made by Harbor Guard of California, was purchased with a $229,373 Port Security grant requested by Ottawa County Marine Patrol Sgt. Keith Koeman in 2010. Some of the fittings on the boat came from the previous year’s grant.

To read more of this story, see today’s print edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.



I am an avid boater, fisherman and all around outdoorsman. I am also a businessman who is used to making payroll, meeting expenses, evaluating Return On Investment, etc… Here is my concern with our recent purchase on Spring Lake patrols:

Let me preface this by saying I have the utmost respect for Law Enforcement and don’t place any blame on them for my concerns. They are just doing what they are asked to do.

Over the last 5 years or so on Spring Lake, boat traffic has significantly decreased due to the increasing cost of fuel and the economy in general. At the same time, it seems that law enforcement on Spring Lake has increased. Almost every weekend, I see sections of Spring Lake (“Hanky Pank” and Smith’s bayous for example) with duplication of law enforcement patrols. I see the Sherriff department with several boats in Spring Lake, I see the Coast Guard with a couple boats in Spring Lake, now I see the DNR with a few boats in Spring Lake and new this year, I am seeing boats with “Conservation Officer” printed on the sides on Spring Lake. Far too often, there will be several of these boats patrolling the same area (typically areas with lots of bikinis) at the same time. When I (and other residents) see this, we ask ourselves, how much do each of these boats cost per hour in equipment, fuel, payroll, benefits, union dues, etc…? Who authorizes so many patrols in the same spot at the same time?

Over the last year, I have also noticed an increase in extravagance and cost in the equipment these officers are using. It seems to me (and many others in Ottawa County) to be excessive and a huge waste of tax dollars. For example, the Sheriff Department has at least one new boat that boasts 2 outboard engines, a V-8 inboard engine, radar, a water cannon and is just plain loaded to the hilt. I heard this boat cost approximately $230,000! What is wrong with the Pursuit (made and donated by Michigan based S-2 yachts) boats they already have? Why did we buy a boat from California? If they couldn’t afford these boats in the past, in today’s economy, what makes us think we can afford them now? Though it looks like a cool and fun new toy, how many fires have the Sherriff department been asked to put out over the years? I, along with several Spring Lake residents, am also noticing the same equipment upgrades for the “Conservation Officer” boats and the DNR. They have radar, hard tops, full enclosures, etc… It appears that they are competing (with our tax dollars) with the Coastguard to see who can have the coolest toys.


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