For years, the town of Raymond has had an eye out for a new patrol boat to make its Sebago Lake waters safer. So last Monday when town officials found out they would be getting a Coast Guard vessel, they were elated.

“I’ve been chief for nine years, and that whole time I was looking for a boat, a real boat. This is a real boat,” said Raymond Fire Chief Denis Morse.

Not only has the town been vying for such a vessel for some time, it also went through a complicated process to get the 25-foot, bright orange Ambar, which had been declared surplus by the U.S. Coast Guard before being sent to the Government Services Administration, the federal agency responsible for disposing of surplus items. The boat had been used by the Coast Guard in Jonesport and was being stored in the midcoast region at the time of Raymond’s purchase.

Once Raymond Town Manager Don Willard learned that the boat was available, he began work on securing it for Raymond Public Safety. But the town hit a roadblock. The U.S. Department of Defense, which takes priority over states when it comes to surplus items, wanted the boat for use in California. Federal guidelines stipulated that the Department of Defense must pick the boat up within 30 days. They missed that deadline, but had already hired a boat hauler.

Unaware of this deadline, the hauler picked up the boat in Brunswick to start the journey west, but he was held up for a few days because he broke his glasses, during which time the Coast Guard was contacted by Senator Collins’ office, which informed them that the boat belonged in state surplus. Maine State Surplus caught the boat just in time.

Once the vessel was intercepted, state surplus had to decide who would get the boat. There were a few interested towns. Of these communities, Raymond, being on Sebago Lake, had the largest population and area of water to be patrolled.

“We chose Raymond because they showed the greatest need for it,” said Carl LaFrance, supervisor for state surplus.

LaFrance said that Raymond is one of the few southern Maine communities to regularly use state surplus, which is based in Augusta. Most regular customers are towns situated between Augusta and Bangor.

“(People) are not fully aware of the program we have here. Once you get hooked on state surplus, there are some really good deals to be had,” said LaFrance.

Raymond certainly got a relatively good deal this time; the 2002 Ambar is valued at $100,000, but Raymond paid just $14,132.

Raymond received support from several parties, including the Cumberland Country Sheriff’s Office, neighboring communities, and senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe.

According to Rachel Irwin, Maine Press Secretary for Sen. Snowe in Washington, Willard contacted both senators back in December asking for their support. They responded by drawing up a joint letter to Maine State Surplus, highlighting the reasons Raymond needed a patrol boat.

“They always have an eye on these things…I think they saw this as a great opportunity to secure this boat for the town of Raymond and the surrounding communities,” said Irwin.

Raymond plans to share the new safety boat with its neighbors. The boat has already generated interest from other Lakes Region towns, as well as from Cumberland County. Though plans for the boat’s use are still up in the air, collaboration is likely.

“We got the boat with the understanding that we’d try to share it with our neighbors,” said Willard.

Casco Town Manager Dave Morton is excited about the boat’s arrival in Raymond, and looks forward to collaborating, though he said Casco must go through another budget cycle before the specifics are worked out.

“We’re always interested in working with our neighboring towns in new programs. We have to go through our own procedural process to see how that’s going to happen,” said Morton.

Derik Goodine, town manager in Naples, said that though Naples already has a marine safety program, the boat is an asset to Naples.

“It’s a deterrent from people acting crazy out on the lake,” said Goodine.

He also said that he is interested in collaborating with Raymond for emergency situations.

Captain Don Goulet of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department is glad to have a safety boat available in the Lakes Region. He said that many homes are difficult to get to, except by boat.

“We’re dealing with a lot of people who come in and their camps or cabins have been burglarized…We’re pretty excited about it,” said Goulet.

According to Chief Morse, public safety workers must complete a training course before the boat can be put in the water. He hopes to have it on the lake by mid-July, but he also said that the boat will probably not be used at full capacity until next summer.

Also, Raymond must sign an agreement with state surplus before putting the boat in the water.

“We’ve got to keep it, and use it in the program. We can’t sell it, loan it or trade I without their permission,” said Willard.

In what Willard calls “an act of goodwill,” Raymond plans to donate its Zodiac raft, used for patrol in the past, to the town of Mariaville, Maine. It will be the town’s first patrol vessel.

Another boat the town purchased four years ago from state surplus for $3,000 recently experienced a blown engine. Willard expects the boat to be up for sale at some future date.

Public safety workers stand in front of Raymond’s new 25-foot safety boat, which is being housed in the Raymond Public Safety Building.

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