Sheriff working to upgrade fleet
State funds, registration fees, sale of 23-footer to pay for boats
Spokane County is upgrading its “navy.”
County commissioners agreed last week to buy a 19-foot Custom Weld jet boat that Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich says is part of a stepped-up effort to patrol local waterways.
He plans to replace his fleet of four boats with three new ones, using money dedicated for boat safety education and enforcement.
In addition to state grants, the Sheriff’s Office receives $4 from every boat registration in the county. Knezovich said the money pays for all boating-related salaries as well as equipment.
“We’ve actually worked our way into needing these vessels,” Knezovich said.
Since 2008, he said, deputies have been teaching 10 to 15 boating safety classes a year and performing many more boat inspections, which are the basis for larger state grants.
Inspections went from about 130 in 2008 to 538 in 2009 and 660 last year, and are expected to exceed 900 this year, Knezovich said.
He said the boat that was approved last week, which will cost $49,575 with trailer and taxes, will replace an inoperative 22-foot Almar jet boat that was purchased in 1991 and needs $22,000 worth of repairs.
Eventually, Knezovich hopes to add a military-style rigid-hull inflatable craft for search-and-rescue work.
“That should round out our capabilities very well,” he said.
Even a used rigid inflatable, which can skim over debris, can cost $80,000 to $90,000, Knezovich said. He hopes to defray the cost of a used model by selling a 23-foot double-hulled aluminum boat that was purchased in 2007 for $144,157.
The 2006-model 23-footer didn’t get a nibble when it was offered for sale in October for a minimum of $70,000. However, Knezovich said, three law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, have expressed interest.
Another opportunity seemed to be knocking last week when Pierce County’s only Puget Sound patrol boat sank at a Tacoma marina.
Purchasing Director Bela Kovacs lost no time in offering Spokane County’s surplus boat, but Pierce County officials weren’t interested. They refloated their 32-foot, $500,000 vessel, the Reliance, and planned to move one of their lake boats to Puget Sound while deciding whether the Reliance can be repaired.
Knezovich said the boat he is trying to sell has had problems almost since it was purchased, but no warranty relief was available from the manufacturer, Aluminum Chambered Boats.
The Bellingham company, founded in 1998 by former Spokane real estate developer Larry Wieber, went out of business in November.
One of the boat’s twin outboard engines cut out while a crew was restringing a broken safety cable above Upriver Dam in 2008, about 90 yards from the spillway, Knezovich said.
“We have to have something reliable,” he said.
Aside from that, Knezovich said, “The people that work on the boat say it’s a good boat except that it’s not working in the direction that we’re taking the marine unit.”
He said his marine deputies want to shift to jet boats because they don’t have propellers to endanger divers during search-and-rescue missions.
County officials plan to solicit bids soon on another jet boat like the one commissioners agreed to buy last week from a Lewiston dealer. The other two bids, for $46,034 and $51,958, were rejected for failure to meet a variety of specifications for design and reliability.
The second new jet boat is to replace two propeller-driven Hewescraft Sea Runners that are to be retired next summer. The 18- and 19-foot Sea Runners were purchased in 1995 and 1998.
Knezovich said the new jet boat is expected to be a 2009 Hewescraft demonstrator that will cost about $35,000.