City poised to return rescue boat, at a cost

Gilroy
– The fire department’s purchase of a Zodiac rescue boat it will
never use was never supposed to happen, City Administrator Jay
Baksa said.
By Lori Stuenkel

Gilroy – The fire department’s purchase of a Zodiac rescue boat it will never use was never supposed to happen, City Administrator Jay Baksa said.

The “misunderstanding” between Baksa and former Interim Fire Chief Hugh Holden late last year became apparent a few weeks ago when the 14-foot boat, a trailer for transporting it, and an $11,000 bill arrived.

Holden had pitched the idea of buying the boat to Baksa in anticipation of a record rainy season this winter, and flooding possibly equal to that of 1987.

“We had no rescue equipment, so we were actually borrowing boats from citizens, people on our staff” to rescue residents stranded by the water, Baksa said.

Because he rarely denies a concept from city staff, Baksa said he directed Holden to put his idea on paper, including the cost, the need and uses for the boat.

“And that’s the last I remember dealing with it,” Baksa said. “It was very clear that there was a misunderstanding on that meeting, and (Holden) was very apologetic about that.”

The purchase was earmarked for a small equipment account in the fire impact fee fund, which has fewer controls than others. The proposal for buying the boat should have gone before a group that monitors long-term purchases, as an exception to the city’s capital improvement budget.

Gilroy Fire Department Chief Dale Foster met with Baksa to evaluate the purchase, and the two decided the city didn’t need the boat.

“Had it gone through that write-up, it probably would have gone to the same conclusion,” Baksa said. “It’s a lot of money for a very narrow focus to a service.”

They are now trying to return the boat, for which the vendor is understandably “not pleased,” Baksa said.

The city will have to pay a couple thousand dollars to return the boat.

“We are still working on an agreement,” Baksa said. “We’re hoping to resolve that this week.”

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