When Waterford Police Chief Murray Pendleton was picking out a decal for he could have easily plastered Waterford Police all over it. But that wasn’t really the point.
“This is a Waterford Police boat, I could have put Waterford Police all over it without worrying about anything,” he said. “But that’s not what this is all about.”
Instead, the decal reads “Southeastern Connecticut Marine Patrol.” Why? Because Pendleton believes this boat is just the first step of many to regionalize police and other services, the only way towns will be able to afford adequate services in the future.
“These towns like East Lyme, Waterford, they don’t have the tax base anymore,” Pendleton said. “And what winds up happening is you would get a boat that kind of is a police boat, or a boat that is kind of a harbor management boat, but you have two of them. Now you have one boat, one real police boat, that meets all the needs, that takes care of all of it.”
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Waterford purchased the boat with a $520,000 grant from Homeland Security. Waterford Police, East Lyme Police and possibly even New London Police will all use the boat to patrol the Niantic River and other waterways, Pendleton said.
“We try to maximize our efforts to have some economies of scale,” East Lyme First Selectman Paul Formica said, who is also the town’s chief of police. “(Regionalization) is about providing a service for less or providing an expanded service at the same cost.”
Pendleton and Formica said East Lyme and Waterford will only use this boat for police patrol for now. They said they will now have one fully equipped boat out on marine patrol up to six times a week for the same cost of having two poorly equipped boats on marine patrol three times a week.
About The Boat
The boat is 28 feet long and has a rubber collar around it so police can easily board other vessels, Pendleton said. It is equipped with an infrared sensor and can support a dive team, he said.
The boat can handle much choppier weather than the old police boat, which the town bought from a private citizen for $25,000 in the late 1990s, Pendleton said. It also has a cabin that can hold up to four people and has a special air filtration system so police officers can stay in the cabin safely during a time when the air is not breathable, such as in a Hazmat situation or a fire, he said.
Another nice feature is it has a bathroom, so officers do not have to keep coming back to shore, Pendleton said. Officers are currently being trained to use the boat, and it will be on the water by Memorial Day, he said.
Pendleton said the boat would be used to enforce boating laws as well as providing additional security to Millstone Power Station. He also said the boat could be used by EMS personnel during water emergencies as well.
“There is lots of activity in Southeastern Connecticut in the summer,” said Formica, echoing Pendleton’s words. “This is just another tool in the arsenal.”
The $520,000 grant bought the boat and will pay for the first three years of maintenance and training for the boat.
Pendleton, who time and time again , said this is the first step in regionalizing more services. If regional marine patrol works out well, perhaps other services could be regionalized or , he said.
Pendleton hypothesized that other towns have been trepid about regionalizing services partly because of a lack of trust. By having a regional service that does work, it will help build that trust, he said.
Formica agreed. Regionalization is one of the best ways to keep costs down while providing the same or even better services, he said.