Greenwich First Selectmen welcomed elected officials and first responders to the Marine Division at Greenwich Harbor on Thursday to mark the good news that Greenwich has been awarded a $135,000 Federal Port Security Grant from the Department of Homeland Security.
Present were State Rep Steve Meskers, State Rep Livvy Floren, State Senator Alex Kasser, Police Chief James Heavey, Fire Chief Joseph McHugh and GEMS Director Tracy Schietinger.
“It really will benefit all of us – protecting the people, protecting aquatic life, protecting this beautiful asset,” Camillo said, gesturing to the harbor. “We’re lucky to have an asset like this, but with that comes the responsibility to protect it. This money will certainly go to that.”
US Congressman Jim Himes said, “Connecticut sends a lot of money to Washington, DC. So we have to celebrate those moments when we get money back for missions as critical as the ones this grant helps support.”
Himes, who lives in Greenwich, pointed out that the Marine Division had responded to two recent incidents.
The first was two weeks when there was a significant boat fire in Stamford, and a second was for a boat fire last Friday on the Mianus River in Cos Cob.
The Greenwich Police Marine Division is the regional asset for diving.
“Where Stamford is the regional asset for bomb squads, we’re the water version of that,” said Captain Zuccerella.
“This equipment is not just about law enforcement and fire – it’s actually about homeland security,” Himes said. “As you know, we are dozens of miles from New York, and everything from drug interdiction to counter terrorism happens right here. This FEMA and DHS money is about making sure that people well beyond the town of Greenwich are safe and secure.”
“This grant particularly warms my heart because these jobs are difficult and risky in the best of times. These are not the best of times,” Himes continued. “Police, Fire and EMS are now being forced to operate under conditions when they go into a scene or into somebody’s house, they don’t know if they are going to pick up a disease or what may happen. It’s a wonderful moment to say thank you, and there’s no better way than to make sure they have the resources and assets they need to keep us safe.”
The Marine Division has three Public Safety Vessels, no. 125 139 and 124.
Chief Heavey said Vessel 139 responded to the two recent fires.
“That boat’s been with us almost 9 years. Days after it was commissioned, it responded to lifesaving rescue of a speed boat that was out on Long Island Sound operating in a dangerous manner, and had ejected both operators. Two of our officers were able to come up alongside, jump up on the boat, turn it off and avert disaster.”
“We’re pretty close to an election. Things are pretty heated up and polarized. What you see here are members of both parties and every level of government,” Himes said.
“This kind of success is a function of partnership and being willing to bridge the gaps between the state, the federal government and municipality and bridge the gaps that might exist between the parties,” he said.
Himes and Chief Heavey thanked State Rep Livvy Floren for her years of service, and Heavey announced he would make Floren an honorary member of the Marine Division in recognition of her retirement.
The federal grant will be used for essential police vessel improvement and sustainability, as well as life-rescue training, dive team support, and infrastructure protection.
Captain James Bonney, who was previously Sergeant of the Marine Division, spent about 100 hours preparing the grant to be submitted to the Dept of Homeland Security.
He said the grant would go toward batteries for the boats, deck lighting, pumps for all three boats.
“I got new crew suits, which are like mustang suits,” he said. “They are like foul weather gear on steroids. It’s totally a dry suit. You put special boots on and it’s got sealed wrists and legs. When we go out there and it’s freezing cold, that’s what you wear because you get drenched.”
He said the grant will also cover the cost of high quality, commercial grade life jackets for crew and people that they rescue.
The grant will also cover new lighting for all three boats – both under water lighting and deck lighting.
“It will especially help the divers at night because when they go down, they can always look up and see the light,” Bonney explained.
It also pays for the hauling of the boats and installation.
The funds will also be used for tactical training for the new UAV and the small submarine that is used to recover evidence and investigate crimes.