January 21, 2013

Portland fireboat's repairs cost $170,000

The figure is nearly twice as much as originally reported, but cost to the city was still $25,000.

By Randy Billings rbillings@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – City officials have confirmed that damage from the city fireboat's accident in 2009 cost nearly twice as much to fix as originally reported.

click image to enlarge

The MV City of Portland IV fire boat in Portland on October 19, 2011. City officials have confirmed that damage from the city fireboat's accident in 2009 cost nearly twice as much to fix as originally reported.

Tim Greenway / Staff Photographer

City spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said in an email that the previous report of $90,000 in repair costs came from the initial estimate, rather than a total from the invoices. The actual cost exceeded $170,000.

The discrepancy came to light last week, after the Portland Press Herald requested billing invoices from the 2009 accident, which happened during a response to an emergency near Jewel Island.

At the time of the accident, the $3.2 million City of Portland IV had been in service for just two months.

Despite the difference between what was reported and the actual bills, the direct cost to Portland taxpayers was the same.

That's because the city was responsible for a $25,000 deductible and its insurance carrier paid the rest.

"The city cost was disclosed immediately at $25,000," Clegg said in an email late Friday.

The accident did not affect the city's insurance costs, Clegg said.

However, a second accident, in 2011, did increase its annual insurance premium by $5,000, she said.

That accident, in which the boat hit an underwater object with two firefighters and 12 civilians aboard, caused about $55,000 worth of damage.

In addition to confirming the newspaper's calculations, Clegg disclosed that an additional $12,600 was spent in 2009 to repair the fireboat's propeller shaft.

That invoice was not included in the response to the newspaper's request for invoices because the repair could not be definitively linked to the accident, she said.

Clegg was responding to questions on behalf of City Manager Mark Rees and Fire Chief Jerome LaMoria, neither of whom worked for the city in 2009.

At the time of the accident, Clegg said, the city sent out a request for qualifications to repair the boat.

The request told bidders not to include costs of certain equipment and repairs, or work that the boat's manufacturer planned to do, she said.

Rockland Marine's bid of $78,000 was selected by the city, which prompted Fire Chief Fred LaMontagne to estimate $90,000 worth of damage, Clegg said.

She said the city cannot say whether city councilors were told the true cost of the repairs when all of the invoices were received in the spring of 2010 because LaMontagne has since retired, as have City Manager Joe Gray and city attorney Gary Wood.

"As far as notification to the City Council, it was the general practice of Corporation Counsel to inform them of these types of matters," Clegg said in an email.

"I am unable to confirm if this happened in this instance as Gary Wood has since retired."

Councilors John Anton, David Marshall and Kevin Donoghue said they didn't recall whether they were told the true cost of the repairs done in 2009.

Anton said the council should have been informed.

Marshall echoed that, noting the council's oversight role for the budget and city finances.

Councilor Edward Suslovic said previously that he was never informed about the cost of the 2009 repairs.

However, the accident occurred after he lost his at-large seat in 2008 and before he won the District 3 seat in November 2010.

Councilor Nicholas Mavodones said he doesn't think the council ever received "a hard number" but he is comfortable leaving such issues to the city's professional staff.

Mavodones said councilors were told of the city's out-of-pocket cost -- the $25,000 insurance deductible.

That figure never changed and the additional cost was covered by insurance, he said.

"That's what we hire managers for," Mavodones said.

 

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

rbillings@pressherald.com

Twitter: @randybillings

 

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