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August 19, 2014 | 01:20 PM
LINN — The town’s closer than ever to buying a fireboat.

“We are within a hair’s length of getting everything taken care of,” Dianna Colman, of the Geneva Lake Association, said on the phone Aug. 13.

For about the past year, Colman and the association have been raising the money that will be donated to the town to purchase a boat and other costs associated with using it on Geneva Lake.

She said the association is raising about $400,000 to give to the town, and “my sense of it is the town will be placing the order by the end of August.”

In an Aug. 12 interview at the fire station, Town Chairman Jim Weiss and First Assistant Fire Chief Dan Pitt said that was around the time they expected the association to come through with the check. They also discussed working with the association, how the idea got started and what the boat can do for the town and other communities surrounding Geneva Lake.

“It is a tool for the entire lake and our neighboring communities,” Weiss said. “It just made sense for the town of Linn because we have the majority of the shoreline on the lake and we don’t have fire hydrants.”

“The concept behind this is it’s a floating hydrant,” Pitt said, who, along with Fire Chief Jason Smith, worked on the proposal to the board to purchase the boat from Lake Assault Boats, of Superior. “That’s what I used to sell this. Linn doesn’t have any hydrants, so when you think about it, it’s a pretty easy sell.”

The concept had been bouncing around for at least a couple years. Weiss said the town fire department approached the board about purchasing a boat, but the board had more questions.

Cost was a big concern, Weiss said. Also, “the board felt let’s get a proposal, but we knew this idea was bigger than Linn Township itself.”

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Then, an incident occurred near the home of Jim Gee, former association president, that prompted that group to work with the town.

“He saw the light,” Pitt said of Gee. “He saw the problem.”

Pitt said it was difficult to drive a fire truck down the access road to the house belonging to one of Gee’s neighbors, where there was a garage fire.

Another problem was tapping into a water source. There’s a 40-foot drop between that residential area and the shore, Pitt said, and a fire truck couldn’t bring water up a line.

It turned out that the fire was extinguished before it could spread, but Pitt, Weiss and Colman said Gee saw the problem that firefighters face firsthand.

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Pitt said having a fire boat, he could have responded to the call by going across the lake, and with the type of boat the town is considering buying, fed water to a truck directly, minimizing response time and increasing the effectiveness of the department.

Gee took the idea to the association. Colman, a town of Linn lake shore resident herself, said she loved the idea.

“The personal advantage, to me, is if I have a fire next to me — or if I have a fire — is that the boat can come right up to the shore … to fill a tanker anywhere,” she said. “You need every single bit of water available. We have a lake, but absolutely no accessibility, so this is a huge benefit.”

Figures

The estimated costs for the proposed Linn fire boat project is $375,321, Weiss said — $335,600 for the boat itself; $31,866 for the installation of a pier and shore station; and $7,885 for a variety of miscellaneous costs associated with the boat and station, such as lighting.

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Pitt provided plans for a 34-by-10-½-foot boat. He said it’s a foot longer than the Chicago fire boat.

The boat was originally built as a rescue boat, but a portable, 500-gallon-a-minute pump was added into its design, Pitt said.

“This boat will have EMS capacity,” he said, adding that it will have bench seats, allowing for the transport of people who need medical attention across the lake. “We built this boat to do multiple things, and EMS capacity was one of them.”

Weiss said, to date, the town hasn’t spent any money on the boat project.

The association offered its support, and it is working to raise a little extra money to cover anticipated costs for training, boat fuel and other items, but “after that, the town of Linn is fully committed to support this boat going forward,” he said.

Weiss said the most exciting part of this is seeing the boat idea become a reality and seeing a private entity such as the association work with the town of Linn “to support the entire lakefront community.”

Pitt seemed eager to see the project move forward. “I’m most excited about the second phase.”

He discussed the concept of “standpipes” — vertical or horizontal pipes that could be installed to connect fire hoses into. “The fire department would have the ability to hook up to those and feed off the line … like a hydrant.”

The fire boat could feed those standpipes, he said.

Weiss said it’s an alternative to hydrants, but “that’s conceptual right now. First things first.”

He said he’d like to see the new boat in the water next spring.

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