By Kevin Redding
Town of Brookhaven Highway Department is hoping for a 68,000-pound gift this holiday season.
On Dec. 14, the town’s division of purchasing will publicly open and evaluate competitive bids from shipbuilding contractors to determine which one will replace the highway department’s outdated military-style landing craft with a more modern and enhanced version of it. The Landing Craft Mechanized Mark 6 is an ex-military steel vessel used often by the department to transport heavy equipment — such as backhoes, dump trucks and Bobcat bulldozers — and personnel to communities on Fire Island for emergency and maintenance services. The bid was issued Nov. 23.
Brookhaven’s specifications for the new vessel include up-to-date engines, electronics and new steering and propulsion systems. The outer dimensions are to be 56 feet long and 68,000 pounds, based on the current LCM-6, which has been operated by the town for several decades. The current model requires frequent repairs, and will be donated to the Brookhaven parks department, according to the highway superintendent, Dan Losquadro (R).
“For us, this is a very useful tool and from a disaster preparedness standpoint, in the event of another major storm, having a landing craft we can rely on to operate day in and day out, to move materials, is very valuable,” said Losquadro, adding that the vessel has the capability to operate in nonideal conditions and is designed to function just as well if a pier or infrastructure is damaged. “On the South Shore, in the event of a major storm, there’s a real possibility you might have flooding or roadway and coastal damage that would prevent you from getting to the shoreline. And certainly on Fire Island, you have no choice. You have to go by boat. It leaves us with very few options other than to have a piece of equipment like this. So it fills a very specific purpose for us.”
Losquadro said the landing craft has been utilized “basically every day” by the department since he was elected in 2013 to facilitate repairs on the boardwalks, concrete, sidewalks and crossovers in Fire Island towns like Ocean Beach, Cherry Grove and Davis Park. But it’s also critical in more dire situations, like evacuation assistance and repairs in the wake of nor’easters, snowstorms and fires.
“I essentially have to plan for my worst nightmare,” Losquadro said. “I’m putting in plans to have equipment ready for the scenarios I never want to have to deal with.”
Kristen D’Andrea, public relations officer within the department, said the vessel is stationed in the water so it’s ready for use 365 days a year.
“It’s ready to go at any time,” D’Andrea said. “And it’s something local fire departments can use. If there’s an emergency and the town receives a request from fire rescue and emergency services, the craft can definitely be used to shuttle fire equipment over to the island.”
Steven Brautigam, the Village of Ocean Beach clerk, said since Hurricane Sandy weather is closely monitored and extra safety precautions are taken. He considers the vessel a smart piece of machinery to have just in case.
“Anything to bring heavy equipment over here at a moment’s notice is very needed,” Brautigam said. “I think it’s a great thing for Brookhaven to have. It can help bring over supplies before or after a storm.”
The project will be funded by a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant totaling more than $5 million, which was awarded to Brookhaven in October for emergency operation upgrades. Other pieces of equipment the town plans to purchase with the grant money are a horizontal wood grinder, a knuckle boom truck and a self-loading concrete mixer.
Losquadro said there are a number of shipbuilding companies across Long Island and he’s anxious to see who bids and who ultimately gets the contract. He and the department will work closely with the contractors to ensure they build the craft exactly as the specifications outline.
“We want to get the best price we can for the best product,” he said. “It’s all driving toward enhancing our fleet of equipment to be more reliable than what we’ve had.”