Fairfield BOF approves $64K on police patrol boat maintenance

FAIRFIELD — Police patrol boats are on their way to getting upgrades to their engines and electronics, after two town bodies unanimously approved the needed money.

About 75 percent of the $64,300 needed to update the the boats would come from a grant from the Department of Homeland Security Port Security Grant Program, Chief of Police Christopher Lyddy said at recent Board of Finance meeting.

This leaves about $16,000 for the town to cover, Leddy said, adding the project would be completed over three years.

“Starting back, actually, 10 years ago, the federal government indicated that they saw Long Island Sound and various infrastructure associated with Long Island Sound as a risk,” Lyddy said. “ In an effort buy down risk, they provided us funding to purchase the two vessels that we currently maintain.”

Lyddy said regular maintenance could let them use these boats for 20 to 25 years.

The presentation came a day after the Board of Selectmen unanimously approved the spending. Selectman Tom Flynn did request data on what types of incidents the Fairfield Police Department’s marine unit responds to.

The Board of Finance also passed the motion unanimously after asking Lyddy questions. The resolution must also be passed by the Representative Town Meeting.

Lyddy told the Board of Finance that the two vessels, a 33-foot Defender and a 23-foot Safeboat, have expensive costs associated with maintenance. For that reason, Lyddy said, the federal government has provided sustainability funding to the department throughout the years.

“This particular grant would be used over a three year period for general maintenance on both vessels,” he said. “In addition, our 33-foot vessel, our larger boat, is now 10 years old, and the electronics are antiquated.”

Lyddy said the Department of Homeland Security agreed with the department’s funding request.

Fairfield’s police department has had a presence in Long Island Sound for more than 50 years, Lyddy said.

“Literally, the boats are used just like patrol cars are on our streets,” he said. “The vessels are used to answer calls for service in Long Island Sound, and we do maintain a presence on our beaches and coastlines.”

Lyddy said the police department does coordinate services with other towns, adding the federal government has recognized their jurisdiction as being throughout the Sound. He said one of their goals is to assist with any incidents at the Long Island Ferry and at any fuel depots throughout Bridgeport.

“So, basically, 90 percent of our time is spent answering the variety of calls for service on Long Island Sound, and maybe 10 percent is protecting our vital infrastructure,” he said.

Every coastal community, Lyddy said, maintains some level of water assets, including Westport, Bridgeport, Stratford, Norwalk and Greenwich. He said they all work together underneath the auspices of the U. S. Coast Guard, while individually maintaining their own fleet.

Lyddy said he didn’t expect to ask for other money to offset the federal funding, but at some point they would need to request funding to replace the electronics. Other maintenance, fuel and associated boat costs are already in the police department’s operating budget.

“In terms of the engines for the larger boat, we took advantage of this same exact grant two years ago and we were able to replace all four of the engines at that time,” he said, adding the department does not anticipate any major expenses coming up in the next few years. “We also don’t anticipate this grant going away.”

Joshua.LaBella@hearstmediact.com