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PA seeking new haz mat truck, fire boat

Port Arthur’s police and fire departments received the City Council’s blessing Tuesday to apply for a 2015 Port Security Grant to purchase a fire boat and new hazardous materials response vehicle.
If the competitive federal grant is awarded, the city will be out about $297,000 — the 25 percent local match of the total $1.1 million total cost for the emergency equipment.
At a cost of $345,000, the 28-foot long trailerable fire boat is capable of fighting small marine fires, or can be use to spray foam during oil spills.
The fire department currently has no waterside marine firefighting capability. The fire boat would be able to access areas that a larger tug boat fire pumps cannot navigate due to drafts.
“It is a good little useful tool and we are buying it for 25 cents on a dollar,” District 6 Councilman Robert E. “Bob” Williamson, said.
The hazardous materials response vehicle, at a cost of $845,000, will replace the fire department’s current 2004 vehicle that has been in frontline service for more than 10 years and is starting to show its age.
The department’s existing vehicle would be used to support dive operations that would reduce road miles and extend the useful life of the vehicle.
City Council approved the purchase in a 4-3 split vote, with District 1 Councilman Raymond Scott Jr, District 4 Councilman Stephen A. Mosely, and District 5 Councilman Willie “Bae”Lewis voting against the measure.
Mosely said he and the other two councilmembers felt the city should spend taxpayer money on new fire hydrants, which are in a state of disrepair, or are inoperable, all over the town.
Mosely said one of his neighbor’s house in the El Vista area burned down recently because of a non-working hydrant.
“It would be difficult for me to explain to the homeowner that I voted in favor of spending $297,000 for haz mat equipment and a boat operation for the protection of a canal while she is looking for a place to live because there was insufficient water to save her home in her neighborhood,” Mosely said.
Additionally, Mosely said the boat is not large enough to fight anything other than a small fire.
“How do you fight a major LNG fire with a little boat?” Mosely asked.
Port Arthur Fire Chief Larry Richard said the city is in the process of upgrading its infrastructure to stop water loss problems that many times are factor in a faulty fire hydrant.
Siemans Industry Inc., Building Technology Division in September was awarded a $8 million contract to replace fire hydrants, large water meters, institute a city-wide retrofit to fixed based system as well as installing automatic meter reading system upgrades,
The contract was in response to a seven-month leak detection survey commissioned to determine who much water the city was losing from antiquated or faulty lines and hydrants. A study commissioned by the company indicated most of the $1.5 million gallons lost daily occurred from fire hydrants the company tested.
The 117 hydrants identified as leaking are responsible for an estimated $2 million in losses per year.
Siemens will replace 117 fire hydrants identified with active water leaks and develop a plan for citywide replacement.
Implementing Siemens’ program will cost about $8 million — to be paid over a period of 14 months with savings the company said would be generated from decreased water losses.
E-mail: sherry.koonce@panews.com
Twitter: skooncePANews