Aydelotte offers water rescue solution

North Whidbey Fire and Rescue District commissioners may have found a solution to their water rescue situation.

For the past several months, commissioners have explored a series of plans to ease the burden of an increasing number of requests for water rescue services.

Ideas have included purchasing a catamaran-style boat and working out a cooperative agreement with the Island County Sheriff’s Office to provide water rescue.

Both of these plans were voted down by commissioners.

Under state law the sheriff’s office is supposed to be the first responder to a water rescue incident, but at the present time, Sheriff Mark Brown’s department doesn’t have an operational boat.

As a result, North Whidbey Fire and Rescue has assumed water rescue duties.

At Tuesday’s meeting John Aydelotte, owner of Marine Services based at Cornet Bay, proposed a contract agreement between the district and his business to provide water rescue service.

Aydelotte has five boats in his fleet: three at the Cornet Bay Marina, one in Oak Harbor and one in Anacortes.

“I’m a big supporter of water rescue and I have kind of a unique fleet,” he said. “We can go out no matter what. I have a fast fleet and we are ready to respond.”

Under the plan, Aydelotte would charge the district $30 an hour to compensate one of his captains plus the cost of fuel.

“If I was captain on the rescue boat there would be no $30 fee, I would do it free of charge,” he said.

Chairman Bruce Carman said he had a discussion with Aydelotte regarding the proposal and was in favor of trying to work out an agreement.

“John was here when the water rescue program started years ago and he has the most experience,” Carman said. “He has five boats available and they come with trained captains. John would also provide training to firefighters at no cost to the district.”

Carman said another advantage by entering into an agreement with Aydelotte would be that the fire department’s boat would be the second responder, like they are supposed to be.

“In a water rescue situation, all we would have to do is get our firefighters to the marina,” Carman said.

Commissioner Larry Morse was adamant the district should continue its pursuit of purchasing a new, mono-hulled boat that was agreed to at a previous meeting.

“This is not the time to stop pursuing a second boat,” he said. “We need to put together the specs and get bids. From what’s been said here, you want to let John take it all over and for us to get out of water rescue.”

Chief Marv Koorn said the department wants to stay in water rescue.

“I don’t think we should jump into this rapidly. We have to work out and look at all the details involved,” he said.

Aydelotte said the only thing he was proposing was to provide a support service.

“I support water rescue and I don’t want to take it over. I just want to help with the mission, not take it over,” he said.

Commissioner T.J. Lamont said the proposal sounds like a “feasible plan” and is something “worth looking into.”

“I think we should also work with the sheriff and see if something like Aydelotte is proposing would fulfill requirements with the state for water rescue,” Lamont said. “If it does, maybe the sheriff would be able to obtain grant money and he could contract with John and we can get back into being second responders.”

Koorn said before any agreement was made on a contract there had to be some basic guidelines.

“We need to get the parameters worked out,” Aydelotte agreed.

Lamont made a motion that the purchase of a second boat be put on hold and to pursue an agreement with Aydelotte and see what can be worked out.

“A proposal needs to be put together and brought back to the board. If acceptable, we will go forward for a specified period of time,” Lamont said.

Carman and Lamont voted in favor of the motion and Morse was opposed.

Koorn said he would get with Aydelotte to work out the details and submit a report to commissioners at the September meeting.

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