January 17, 2013

Files reveal cost discrepancy in Portland fireboat's 2009 crash

The city said that repairs from the crash in November 2009 cost about $90,000, but invoices show it cost about $170,000.

By Randy Billings rbillings@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

The first of two accidents involving Portland's three-year-old fireboat cost nearly twice as much as previously reported by the city, according to documents acquired via a Freedom of Access Act request.

Tim Greenway / Staff Photographer

Related Documents

PDF: Fireboat invoices

Rees was hired as city manager in 2011, two years after the first fireboat accident.

Suslovic said he was never notified that the costs were higher than first reported.

City Councilor John Anton, who chairs the council's Finance Committee, said Wednesday that he did not remember what councilors were told about the final cost.

However, he said he is concerned that the fireboat has been in two accidents since it was purchased in 2009 and the city should continue its efforts to be transparent to the public.

Mayor Michael Brennan did not return a call for comment Wednesday.

The Press Herald also tallied invoices stemming from the accident on Oct. 15, 2011. Those totaled about $56,000, which is in line with the $54,000 reported by the city.

The city had to pay a $25,000 deductible for each of the two accidents, with insurance covering the rest. City officials could not say whether Portland's insurance rates have been affected by the accidents.

Documents provided by the city also revealed changes in city policies regarding the use of the fireboat for non-emergency purposes. The new policies were approved by Rees on Nov. 13.

One says use of the fireboat for "non-public safety purposes" by city employees and contractors shall be approved by the fire chief, who will notify the city manager.

A separate new policy says anyone "not affiliated with the city through employment or through contracted services shall not be permitted to ride" on the fireboat without the fire chief's approval.

The new policies differ from one imposed by Rees soon after it was revealed that 12 civilians were on board at the time of the accident in 2011.

At the time, Rees required all non-emergency use of the fireboat to be approved in advance by the city manager.

Two firefighters were suspended without pay for the accident, but they were not punished for having civilians on board because the city didn't have a policy against it. An arbitrator reduced the punishments and ordered the city to pay more than $1,100 in lost wages to the employees.

Rees said in an email Tuesday that the new policy no longer bypasses the fire chief in decisions about when to allow civilians on the fireboat.

"Under this new process, both the fire chief and me, as city manager, have the opportunity to weigh in on its use," he wrote.

Suslovic, however, said he believes the city manager should be the only one authorized to grant permission for non-emergency use.

"I'm just concerned about openness and oversight," he said.

The new policies make clear that the fireboat crew must report all accidents in accordance with Coast Guard rules. The crew did not immediately report the accident to the Coast Guard.

 

Staff Writer Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

rbillings@pressherald.com

Twitter: @randybillings

 

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