Au Gres-Sims-Whitney fire board eyeing boat slip purchase

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Au GRES — Due to the number of emergency incidents on the Saginaw Bay, the Au Gres-Sims-Whitney Fire Board is deciding whether to purchase a boat slip, and perhaps a boat in the future, for the fire department.

Keith Edmonds, mayor pro-tem for the city of Au Gres and a fire board member, said the Au Gres-Sims Whitney Fire Department has participated in five rescues on the Saginaw Bay over the past year, and had to fight one cattail fire in the bay.

Edmonds said the fire department has used personal boats for the past incidents.

“We’ve been using firemen’s boats,” he said.

According to Edmonds, the fire board members feel like a boat slip would be a good purchase, but members of the Sims Township Board are were hesitant about the purchase.

Sims Township Supervisor Robert Quackenbush, a fire board member, said he believes the township board would support the decision if it was more aware of the fire department’s role in water rescues.

“I think it may be simply a manner of education in terms of showing better what the fire department does, what types of activities they get involved in, and then work forward,” he said.

Quackenbush added that he wants to have a representative from the fire department speak at a board meeting about the benefits of having a boat slip on the bay. Boat slips are also less expensive now than in the past, Quackenbush said.

“This would be $1,000 or $1,500 or $2,000,” he said. “This isn’t back in the day when those condo boat slips would go for $6,000.”

He added the slip would most likely be for a spot that would allow the fire department to dock at the Au Gres Yacht Club.

“It’s something that’s going to be near the big water, is what they’re looking for,” Quackenbush said. “You really wouldn’t want to have it back in town where you’d have to go two miles of river before you get to the big water.”

Since the fire department has no boat, Edmonds said if the slip were purchased, firemen who own boats would dock there so a boat would be available in case of a rescue situation. Edmonds said he personally believes the fire department should have a boat and access to the Bay.

“I’m a boater,” he said. “I like to go out there, and I’d like to know that if something happens there’s somebody that’s going to come get me.”

Edmonds added the Arenac County Sheriff’s Department at times has its marine patrol boat in the Au Gres area, but that its boat is more suited for patrolling, not rescue situations.

When Edmonds raised the issue of the fire department buying a boat slip at the Oct. 1 Au Gres City Council meeting, council members were in support of the fire board moving forward with the purchase.

“My feeling is, it’s way overdue,” said Mayor Tom Ennes. “It should’ve been done a long time ago. You’re out there with a couple million dollars in fire trucks and you’re not able to get out there on the water.”

Quackenbush said that ultimately, the fire board, which operates independently of the township boards, can make the decision whether or not to purchase the boat slip.

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