2017-04-06 / Views

More than donations needed for boat buy

The proposed purchase of a Great Lakes-worthy boat for the Sheriff’s Office has taken a step forward with a split Leelanau County Board of Commissioners authorizing a grant request that, if approved by the federal government, would pick up 75 percent of the cost.

The boat’s anticipated pricetag is $455,000, which puts Leelanau County’s share at nearly $114,000. As the county has taken on a number of unbudgeted, big-ticket projects in the last year, at one point in the meeting the discussion naturally turned to how the local share might be raised.

We were surprised at one answer: GoFundMe, a website that takes donations for local causes. We were also surprised that a more reliable funding source was not identified.

And we were disappointed that a stronger commitment wasn’t expressed for the county to hold up its end of the grant application bargain given that the Department of Homeland Security appears willing to pay for the majority of the project.

In an earlier editorial we questioned the need for such a boat, and we still have reservations based on the level of responsibility local governments should bear for patrolling the Great Lakes.

It seems to us that Michigan’s rural counties are hardly in the best positions to regularly patrol the big waters, much less to perform the types of dangerous rescues that might require the type of boat eyed by the Sheriff’s Office. Leelanau County is preparing to fill a void that was created by the U.S. Coast Guard, which will no longer station a boat in Frankfort, and that is better suited for state agencies such as the Department of Natural Resources and federal agencies such as the Coast Guard and National Park Service.

That said, though, dangerous rescues save lives, and we have an extremely dedicated crew of emergency responders including Sheriff’s deputies who don’t hestitate to risk their own lives to save others. They would be safer in a bigger boat.

Commissioners supported the grant. They should identify funds under their control to pay for Leelanau’s share, rather than rely on donations from the public.

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