GILFORD – Should the Portsmouth City Council agree, the town will have a new-to-it fire 30-foot fire boat to replace the 40-year-old "Snuffer."
Selectmen voted unanimously to accept the boat after hearing positive comments from the public and being told by Chief Steven Carrier that the Portsmouth Fire Commission voted to give it away.
There had been some concern of late that some smaller communities in the seacoast area wanted the boat to stay in Portsmouth. Some had said they would contribute to the maintenance but that proposal apparently didn't come to fruition.
As to the costs of operations, Carrier said that Portsmouth spent about $12,000 annually on maintenance largely related to replacing zinc anodes that protect connectors but that corrode rapidly in salt water. With the boat coming to fresh water, he said the "zincs" would likely never need replacing.
Additional costs to Portsmouth that won't be incurred in Gilford are attributed to union contracts that provide stipends and additional pay to boat operators. Carrier said their contract has no such provisions.
Carrier said training initially would be costly. He said he is working with the N.H. Marine Patrol about getting boat operators through one of their classes they offer for similar boats owned by the agency.
Speaking for the boat was Jim MacBride, the chairman of the Gilford Island Association. A long time boating enthusiast, he said one of the problems Portsmouth likely had that Gilford will not, was navigating the boat in the currents of the Piscataqua River when tides go out.
John Goodhue, who has a home on Mark Island, said he is familiar with a double jet stream boat and, while in favor of the acquisition, said that the department must put the appropriate time and money into training the people who will operate it.
"This is a very sophisticated piece of equipment compared to Snuffer," he said.
He also said that the maintenance of the boat must be upkept to which Selectman Chair Richard "Rags" Grenier said that he has faith in the department because they kept Snuffer in shape for 40 years.
Goodhue said that the new boat will be infinitely better for assisting the fire department for fires along the water, where Snuffer could never get close enough or could pump enough water to be truly useful.
The Portsmouth City Council meets Monday and will vote on whether or not to dispose of the boat by giving it to Gilford.
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