2018-06-14 / Front Page

Sheriff presses new boat

Co. Bd. now on board
By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff

LEELANAU COUNTY Sheriff Mike Borkovich is hoping to purchase a “Great Lakes Class Law Enforcement Patrol Boat” with rescue capabilities. LEELANAU COUNTY Sheriff Mike Borkovich is hoping to purchase a “Great Lakes Class Law Enforcement Patrol Boat” with rescue capabilities. Sheriff Mike Borkovich is hoping the third time will be a charm in his effort to acquire what he calls a “Great Lakes Class Law Enforcement Patrol Boat” with rescue capabilities.

Twice in the past two years the sheriff’s efforts to acquire such a boat have failed. Even though the price tag has been over $400,000, about 75-percent of the cost would be covered by a federal grant.

The last time he tried, in 2017, support from the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners for acquiring a $466,000 boat was lukewarm at best, but at least the board authorized the sheriff to apply for grant funding.

When grant funding wasn’t approved in 2017, District No. 3 Commissioner and County Board Chairman Will Bunek expressed “relief” that the county wouldn’t be required to come up with a $116,000 “match” that would have been required had the feds granted the county the $350,000 it requested.

The sheriff’s effort to acquire an identical boat in 2016 was even less successful.

Initially, the board turned down a 2016 proposal from the sheriff to acquire a used boat from the Peninsula Township Fire & Rescue Department for $85,000. Then, the board voted 4-1 at an executive meeting to authorize the sheriff to apply for grant funding for a new boat for $425,000.

The following week, however, with the sheriff absent from the board’s regular monthly meeting in April 2016, a motion to authorize the grant application and possible purchase of the boat failed in a 3-3 tie.

But that was then, and things were looking a little brighter this week.

The board voted 5-2 at its executive meeting Tuesday morning to recommend that the sheriff be authorized to apply for a $321,000 federal grant which, if received, would require the county to kick in $107,000 in “matching” funds to acquire a boat.

Bunek again voted in opposition. He was joined this time by District No. 6 Commissioner Casey Noonan who represents Cleveland, Empire and Glen Arbor townships where, Noonan says, he’s heard little public support for the sheriff acquiring such a boat. That may be related to the fact that taxpayers in Glen Lake and Empire Townships have already paid for a Great Lakes rescue boat operated by Glen Lake Fire & Rescue.

On the other hand, District No. 5 Commissioner Patricia Soutas-Little who represents Leland and Centerville townships said she’s heard from many constituents and public officials in her district who are fully in support of the sheriff acquiring a more capable Great Lakes patrol and rescue vessel.

Currently, the Sheriff’s Marine Patrol operates a 25-foot fiberglass boat from Leland that the sheriff describes as a “pretty good fishing boat and safe in calm weather,” but nothing like what he really needs.

What the Sheriff’s Marine Patrol needs, Borkovich says, is a 29-foot custom-built aluminum-hull SAFEBOAT, manufactured in Washington State, with twin 300 horsepower outboard motors, rubberized sides, an enclosed pilothouse, shock absorbing seats, and a variety of other features allowing deputies to effect rescues on the big lake in bad weather.

Commissioners questioned the Sheriff about a $245,000 Great Lakes law enforcement vessel acquired last month by the National Park Service that also operates out of Leland. The Sheriff explained that the National Park Service vessel is less seaworthy than the boat he hopes to acquire and is configured for passenger and cargo transport to the Manitou Islands rather than the wider-ranging patrol and rescue missions the Sheriff’s office will face.

The Sheriff’s Marine Patrol currently operates the 25-foot Coastal boat from Leland but would transfer it to Suttons Bay if a new, larger Great Lakes patrol vessel is acquired. Four other, smaller Sheriff’s Marine Patrol boats are operated throughout the county, ranging in size from 15 to 24 feet and ranging in age from six to 26 years-old.

The Leelanau County Board of Commissioners will make a final decision Tuesday night whether to authorize the sheriff to apply for acquisition of a new $428,000 boat with $321,000 in federal grant funding requiring a $107,000 county “match.”

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