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City officials vote to buy rescue boat
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McMinnville officials voted Tuesday night to buy a boat which will be used by McMinnville Fire Department in partnership with Warren County Rescue Squad.
The boat is from Towee Boats Manufacturing, a McMinnville business that will be providing a skiff boat and trailer in the amount of $11,873. Towee Boats operates out of Red Road Business Park.
Voting for the measure was Mayor Norman Rone, Vice Mayor Everett Brock and Aldermen Jimmy Haley, Billy Wood and Clair Cochran. Alderman Rick Barnes voted against it.
This could be the first boat purchased by the city of McMinnville for the fire department. The measure did not pass without controversy and a jab or two by members of the board.
Alderman Rick Barnes questioned the need for a boat.
“What on earth does the fire department need with a boat?” asked Barnes.
Mayor Norman Rone added, “We are trying to establish a navy. No, I’m kidding.”
Keeping the humor going, Wood stated “We are going to invade Morrison. Shhh!”
According to Warren County Rescue Squad volunteer Donald Hillis, the partnership was the idea of Randy Walker, who was the city’s fire chief for seven months until leaving Nov. 9.
“The rescue squad is all volunteer,” said Hillis. “A lot of times when we are needed we are at work. It’s a real good idea that we start to coordinate with the McMinnville Fire Department because those guys are on call 24/7. We are on call 24/7 but we aren’t always available.”
Hillis says the plan is to house the boat at either fire department station and work together when a water rescue effort is needed in the city limits.
“If someone is trapped or in trouble, they could bring the boat and we could work together to get the individual out a lot quicker,” said Hillis.
“I think this is a good idea,” said Rone. “It’s a life-saving measure.”
“It is,” said Hillis. “This is something we had never considered until the last chief mentioned it. It was his idea that we start working together more with the city or the county. I don’t know why we never thought about it.”
Cross training will be done between the department and the rescue squad, which already performs water rescue. 
Barnes says the city’s waterways are too shallow in most areas for a boat.
“A boat won’t go but just in a very small area on our river,” said Barnes. “It can rescue at the Westwood Bridge area.”
Todd Gregory, the president of Towee Boats, says his company’s expertise is in shallow-water boats and harsh environments.
“We routinely run this entire river system,” Gregory said. “Our boats are designed to do that. It’s a shallow-water skiff.”
After the meeting, Barnes says he voted against the measure because this was the first time he has seen the boat issue.
“Normally, these things go through committee and to the board. This came out of the blue without giving us time to consider it, but that’s how things are done on this board sometimes.”
When contacted by the Southern Standard, Walker denies the partnership was his idea. Instead, he says it was more the idea of city administrator David Rutherford.
“The city was approached about additional funding for a boat, but the city could only purchase a boat if it included a partnership between the McMinnville Fire Department and the Rescue Squad,” said Walker.
He was on board.
“I was in the agreement,” said Walker. “I could see a great deal of merit in training the firefighters to be proficient in the event of a water rescue. I wrote the specifications for bids and we were planning on training when the weather gets warmer.”
No exact time has been set for McMinnville firefighters to begin training for water rescue.