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Fairfield cops' new 33-foot boat hits the water

Genevieve Reilly, Fairfield Citizen-News
Updated 1:09 pm, Saturday, October 1, 2011

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  • The Fairfield Police Department unveiled its new 33-foot SAFE Boat vessel Friday morning. The $450,000 boat was purchased through the Port Security Grant program. Photo: Genevieve Reilly / Fairfield Citizen
    The Fairfield Police Department unveiled its new 33-foot SAFE Boat vessel Friday morning. The $450,000 boat was purchased through the Port Security Grant program. Photo: Genevieve Reilly

 

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Officer James Wiltsie wanted everything on the console of the Fairfield Police Department's new 33-foot boat to be just right.

Well, he got it so right that the U.S. Navy recently ordered 30 boats from SAFE Boat with the Wiltsie's design. The department on Friday unveiled the new $450,000 vessel purchased completely with funding from the Port Security grant program.

"It was a long time," Wiltsie said after docking the boat at South Benson Marina. The funding was received in 2008. "There was a period when I didn't think it would happen," he said.

Wiltsie worked with engineers and designers from SAFE Boat International, a boat manufacturer in Seattle, Wash. "They'd send me the drawings and we'd go back and forth," he said. "When SAFE Boat makes a 33-foot boat, it's not right off the shelf." Every decision, Wiltsie said, from bow to stern is made by the customer.

The console redesign, he said, was motivated by redundancy in equipment. "We have two VHF radios, multiple police radios," he said.

"Officer Wiltsie really put his heart and soul into seeing this work was done," said Police Chief Gary MacNamara. "Officer Wiltsie was the driving force between the concept, and what you're going to see today.

The cabin is heated and air conditioned for use 365 days a year , and boasts a laptop computer like those found in patrol cars, allowing officers to write reports and search for information, such as when checking identification. The seats, Wiltsie said, are shock-mitigating, allowing the vessel to navigate 6-foot seas. On board, it features the latest technology in sonar, navigation and communication.

The boat has an infrared camera system, a maximum speed of more than 40 knots and is considered one of the safest, most dependable vessels on the water. The new vessel will replace the marine unit's 27-foot Boston Whaler, which will be sold.

The new boat won't be used only in Fairfield. It is considered an asset for the region -- Fairfield is part of the state Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security's Region 1, which encompasses 14 towns from Greenwich to Monroe and Stratford.

"This region, Region 1, sets a high standard when it comes to emergency regional planning," said Scott Graham, a retired Coast Guard captain and specialist with the grant program.

Representatives from many of those 14 municipalities were on hand for Friday's unveiling, along with representatives from Coast Guard Stations at Eatons Neck and New Haven, and U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4.

"The boundaries are blurred on the water," MacNamara said.

Interim First Selectman Michael Tetreau said the boat is a "great example of leadership on behalf of the Police Department," and will help protect residents not only today, but in the future.