New Buffalo Fire Chief Chris Huston and Assistant Chief Jack Kennedy brought the new firefighting ATV vehicle to City Hall for Harbor Commissioners to view prior to their regular meeting Thursday, June 2.
The shiny red ATV was a much-needed addition to the City Fire Department’s firefighting equipment. Huston said the ATV is capable of fighting fires on all of the dock fairways in the harbor as well as aiding in fighting grass fires off the lakefront. The ATV is equipped with an onboard water pump capable of pumping water from the harbor or the lake into two, 1 ½-inch hoses or a 2 1/2-inch hose.
Previously, the firefighters had to hook fire hoses to hydrants along the banks of the harbor area or from roadways and drag the hoses down the piers or across lakefront property to the dunes. In addition to the vehicle, a small trailer will transport the hoses and other safety equipment directly to the scene of the fire, saving time and property. The front of the ATV is also equipped with a winch system. City Manager Rob Anderson said that the street-legal vehicle was a budgeted item.
“With so many unique spaces in the City, this vehicle can serve multiple purposes when fighting fires—it can save property and save lives in the future; I was a strong advocate of the equipment acquisition,” he said.
The fear of a disastrous fire in the harbor has long been a concern of neighboring property owners and boaters. With the density of boats and the close proximity of the boats to structures, there has long been a fear of the unknown, as owners have questioned if fire trucks could not reach a fire should one begin to rage.
In the past, it was proven that the fairways in the marina could not support the weight of the big fire trucks, leaving the firemen to carry hoses and other equipment to the source. In winter 2014, two boats that were left in the slips on bubblers caught fire and the firemen had to drag the hoses down the icy docks from the hydrant located off the Harbor Grand parking lot, which was quite a distance to the fire itself. Both of the boats were destroyed in that incident, but with no other boats in the water, the fire was limited to two loses. In the future, the firemen will have this valuable asset to provide faster response time.
At their regular meeting, the Commissioners discussed the need for taking soundings in the federal channel earlier in the year. In past years, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers has performed the soundings. This year, they were not done until the end of April; if dredging was needed that late date makes the job difficult to complete for the opening of the boating season. Dredging is not permitted during fish spawning in May and prior to dredging, bids must be let before hiring a dredging firm, which moves the dredging even further out into the summer. It was suggested that the City be more proactive and budget to hire a firm to take the soundings earlier in the season.
The current sounding report is posted on the City website, www.cityofnewbuffalo.org, but Chair Nancy Smith stated that based on the measurement table used by the USACE, boaters needed to add 2.7 feet to all of the figures shown on the chart, as the water is actually deeper than indicated. The website also has a live web feed of the harbor and lake conditions available, thanks to the new web camera located at the Municipal Marina.
With the loss of five trees in the Municipal Marina park area, the commissioners made a recommendation to have table umbrellas available to the boaters for shade. The dedication of the beach dunewalk was discussed, but no date has been set. Smith shared the cast bronze plaque commemorating the dunewalk for former Harbor Commissioner and Port Authority member, William Deputy, whose endowment funded the latest phase of the reconstruction of the stairs. The William Deputy Foundation, through the Berrien County Foundation, awarded the City a $17,500 grant for the repair work and the City budgeted $15,000 for their contribution to the ongoing project. Phase II reconstruction included the repair of three sections of the stairs and a landing. The 7.5” x 5” plaque reads: “Bill Deputy Dunewalk. Always a champion for our harbor, on the Port Authority and then on the Harbor Commission. 2016.” The plaque and dunewalk will be dedicated, with Deputy’s family members present, this summer.
There was not a current report for the Emergency Dredging Fund; however, no money has been spent on dredging for the past two years. As of April 2016, the EDF had a balance of $341,065.44. Eight entities located in the harbor make voluntary contributions to the dredging fund each year: Dunewood Condominium Association, Harbor Point Shores and Harbor Landings Condo Associations, Lake Michigan Yacht Club, Oselka Marina, Pleasure Isle Marina, South Cove Condo Association and The Moorings Condo Association.