It was a tough decision for the Port Commissioners Tuesday night when they had to decide whether to continue efforts to site a specialized response boat here and shoulder the costs or pass on the opportunity.
Port CEO Hank Bynaker informed his commission board last night that both Astoria and Warrenton were approached about sharing the cost of maintaining the vessel, both said there is no money in their respective budgets to handle the annual costs. The Federal Emergency Management Agency grant which would supply the vessel free of charge comes with the condition that FEMA doesn't want the boat back because of the inability of the local agencies to handle maintenance. If the Port Commissioners decided to opt out of the grant it would have forced the other agencies upriver to scramble to resubmit the grant application leaving Astoria out of the mix.
Bynaker told his commission several times that if they passed on the grant it would be unlikely they would ever have another chance to get the kind of asset the vessel represents. While it has been called a "fire boat" in the press it would be more appropriate to call it a Quick Response Vessel with fire fighting capability as the boat could be used for a number of different purposes including national security in which the Coast Guard would have access to the vessel in time of need. The boat could also be used to provide marine security for cruise ships docked at the port and anchored in the river. Other specific uses have yet to be identified but the vessel represents a means of filling any number of local needs including fire fighting.
Port budget committee chair John Lansing told the commission that while it's true the current budget does not contain funding for maintenance for the boat he is confident that others in the community will see the value and assist in supporting it's care through any number of means. Commissioner Hunsinger said that with the press reporting the situation it would help tell the story of the value of the boat and the need for community support.
The commission went on to give CEO Bynaker their agreement by concensus to continue the process of bringing the quick response vessel to Astoria and to develope a strategy to handle the maintenance funding.