CLEARWATER — The Police Department is bringing back a marine patrol unit about 20 years after getting rid of one.
On Thursday night, city leaders okayed the purchase of a $48,000 boat to patrol waterways during the peak boating season, holidays and special events.
Police Chief Tony Holloway said he wanted to make sure boaters were safe.
"Clearwater is surrounded by water and we were trying to figure out how we were going to assist our citizens who were having problems in the water," Holloway told the City Council this week.
The city has 50 square miles of waterways under its jurisdiction. The patrol area will typically be limited to areas in and around Clearwater Harbor and Clearwater Pass, busy waterways that officials expect to get busier with new downtown boat slips and public docks.
Clearwater currently relies on other law enforcement agencies, like the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, to police the waters, and budget cuts have decreased the amount of time other agencies can spend there, officials said.
"We're sort of at the discretion of the sheriff whether he patrols our area or not," beach district commander Lt. Eric Gandy told city leaders.
The city had a marine unit until the late '80s, Gandy said.
"And the scope got way out of hand, and we ended up with a 28-footer with triple (outboard engines) on it and it had excessive fuel bills, maintenance costs, etc," he said.
The new boat, a Contender 23 (foot) Open will be powered by a single Yamaha F250 engine.
It will be used primarily for enforcement and boater safety. Holloway said he doesn't plan to hire any new officers for the boat.
The city's Fire Department currently has two boats that respond to water emergencies.
Lorri Helfand can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4155.