Mississippi DEQ called Jackson County and offered Emergency Management a $500,000 oil skimmer boat, at no cost.
EMS Director Earl Etheridge checked it out and on Tuesday convinced the Jackson County Board of Supervisors to take it.
“The state is willing to give it. We’ll take the skimmer off and cover the deck holes with plates,” he told the board. “It will be an excellent work boat. We’re not paying anything for it.
“They’re just trying to get rid of them,” Etheridge said. “If you gave us a $500,000 boat and the best we could do with it is turn around and sell it, we’ll still be ahead.”
The state Department of Environmental Quality boat was built after the 2010 BP spill to skim oil from the surface of the water. It’s designed to hold 1,200 gallons. But Jackson County plans to remove that equipment, worth $200,000, and install pumps to fight harbor and port fires.
There were two categories of skimmers built, said a spokesman for the DEQ. A total of 11 were built, most by by Trinity Offshore, at a cost of $3.28 million, paid for with BP funds.
Jackson County will get the last of the 30-footers, Etheridge said.
Etheridge sees it as a multi-purpose boat for search and rescue. It’s on a trailer in Jackson and he plans to store it in a covered stall in one of the Jackson County fire stations. He has three other boats, purchased with BP oil money, also trailered at fire stations — one for river searches, one with a flat bottom for neighborhood flooding rescues and a 17-foot bay boat with a center console for use in the Mississippi Sound.
Supervisor Barry Cumbest pointed out, “It’s not something we would buy.”
It’s a pontoon boat with a wheel house and two motors.
Etheridge, however, said he plans to let other county departments use it and hopes they’ll help with the upkeep. He suggested the county auction off the skimming equipment.
The Board on Tuesday voted to take the boat. Then Board President Melton Harris asked, “Do you have any more gifts?”
Rupert Lacy, head of Harrison County EMS, said they got the same call.
“I heard they were giving away boats, but we didn’t put in for one,” he said. Too much cost for upkeep.
Harrison County Fire Service, however, is considering one.