ST. ALBANS TOWN – The St. Albans Town selectboard has opted not to purchase a police boat and will instead organize a committee of residents on St. Albans Bay and boaters to explore the “marine needs of the town.”
The initial suggestion for a police boat came from St. Albans Police Department (SAPD) chief Gary Taylor and retired Rear Admiral Warren Hamm, following the construction of a marina in the bay.
The town’s board came to this decision after a preliminary report from an impromptu committee of town residents, including Hamm and selectperson Al Voegele, concluded “there is no documentation indicating a recognizable need today for a marine patrol boat.”
Instead, the report recommended that the town commit funding to study possible mooring sites and regulated boating procedures in St. Albans Bay, as well as afford legal fees for an appeal to the state to grant St. Albans Town the authority to hire a harbormaster.
The cost floated by Voegele for those recommendations hovered at about $15,000.
Their report also concluded that neither the Vermont State Police, U.S. Coast Guard nor the Grand Isle Sheriff’s Department could patrol for a municipality, and that there was no legal requirement for the town to police its waterways.
According to Voegele, he confirmed that all three would respond to an emergency call in St. Albans Bay, though it would likely take an hour for any one of those groups to respond. More immediate emergencies could hypothetically be met by the St. Albans Town’s fire department, which recently purchased a new rescue boat.
The selectboard previously formed an impromptu committee after Taylor and Hamm presented the board a proposal to purchase a police boat for SAPD to patrol St. Albans Bay. The need for a boat, according to Taylor and Hamm, came from both recreational traffic to mainly Burton Island State Park and increased boating traffic courtesy of a new marina.
They also cited the town’s interest in improving recreational activities within the bay, namely centered on the St. Albans Bay Park.
Those same needs were cited for the purchase of the fire department’s rescue boat last year.
The costs for a police boat would have been charged to St. Albans Town alone.
How much of that committee was involved with penning that report was disputed during the selectboard’s latest meeting, when one member of that committee, resident Bob Fairbanks, said he was invited to only one meeting. “You mentioned that I was on the committee, but that was in name only,” Fairbanks told the board. “The only meeting I was invited to was 52 days later.”
He also accused the committee of overstepping its bounds in drafting a report that, rather than study specifically a police boat, opted to explore boating regulations and the possible hiring of a harbormaster as well.
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