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Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2:13 p.m.
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Orono Fire Department working to buy new rescue boat

The Orono Fire Department is working with the Town of Orono to reallocate funds to purchase a new rescue boat.

The capital budget for fiscal year 2013 originally allotted $21,500 for the purchase of three new life packs used with Automatic External Defibrillator and the blood pressure machine for the two ambulances and fire truck. But after he took office on Aug. 27, Fire Chief Robert St. Louis determined that the need for a new lifeboat was a higher priority.

The 16-foot boat will have a 90-horsepower jet motor, which only falls 6 inches underwater. The jet engine will allow the boat to perform rescues in places that are currently unreachable for the Orono lifeboat.

St. Louis took the proposal to the Sept. 19 Finance-Community Development-Operations Committee Meeting, where it was approved unanimously.

“It went through committee, and now we are working on getting some quotes on the boat. It will go to committee probably next month to hopefully get permission to actually reallocate the funds,” said town manager Sophie Wilson.

Last year, there were seven water rescues performed by the Orono rescue team. For each rescue two boats must be present, so Orono relies on Old Town and Veazie for rescues. The life saving crews will be able to fit all of their equipment onto a new boat.

The current Orono lifeboat is a 1970 Boston Whaler. The boat’s propeller hangs down 2 or 3 feet into the water, which prevents it from reaching certain places.

With the purchase of a new boat with a jet engine, the only troublesome place for rescue would be behind the Public Works Garage, due to the rocks and rough conditions of the water in that area. Because the dam was removed in Old Town and the water has gotten so low, the new boat would struggle to perform a rescue. Driftwood and rocks also become problematic for rescue crews.

The Fire Department will be trading in the current boat. St. Louis hopes to receive $4,000 for the old boat, which is not included in the reallocated money. The decision, pending council’s approval to move forward with the purchase of a new lifeboat, will not be costing the town any extra money.

University of Maine student and Orono resident Olivia Michael thinks that the reallocation is critical for the town and its residents.

“Even if we need to dip further into the budget, we should. In a town that is surrounded by water, a safe, usable and updated boat is needed,” Michael said.

As per boating tradition, the future boat has not been named, but St. Louis is not worried.

“I am sure the firefighters will come up with a name for the boat when it gets here,” St. Louis said.