Rescue craft needs to be priority

In a few weeks, the town will start developing the proposed budget for fiscal 2015-2016.

As part of the process, town departments will put together a list of capital requests and purchases. The requests will be reviewed by the town’s Capital Improvement Committee and Planning and Zoning Commission before they are sent to the Board of Selectmen for consideration.

Some capital requests in the past involved repairs to buildings, including Town Hall and various fire department buildings. Other requests have included the purchase of equipment, such as vehicles for the Department of Public Works and Police Department.

In the next fiscal year, the purchase of a rescue craft should be a top priority. In the course of a year, thousands of people visit Highland Lake to sail and boat.

While some people wear personal flotation devices, including life jackets, there are many on Highland Lake who do not. Recently, Benjerman Steen, a Torrington resident, drowned in the lake after a boating accident.

Currently the town’s Police Department has a patrol boat, which is often seen enforcing speed limits at the lake. However, the town’s emergency department does not have a rescue craft.

During the development of the fiscal 2014-2015 budget, one of the Fire Department’s capital requests was for a rescue craft costing $10,000. That request was passed over, leaving the town without any kind of rescue watercraft.

Considering the heavy use of Highland Lake and the number of boats and people on the lake, a rescue boat should have been purchased by the town a long time ago.

The town cannot keep depending on neighboring departments for rescue assistance, especially since it takes so much time for them to get from their respective locations to Highland Lake.

In an emergency, the immediacy of getting help is important — every second makes a difference.

With this in mind, and with the loss of Benjerman Steen also in mind, we hope that the town makes the purchase of a rescue boat for Highland Lake a top priority during its budget-making process for the next fiscal year.