State grant helps PCSO add to its fleet on the water

Times Report
Crookston Times

    The Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) is adding to their fleet of boats, thanks to a federal grant through the state, Polk County Sheriff Jim Tadman reports.

    The PCSO applied for a State of Minnesota Federal Boating Safety Supplemental Equipment Grant and was subsequently awarded an 18’x 8’ Alumitech Airboat with a 450-horsepower motor and aluminum trailer.

    “What a great asset for the PCSO,” Tadman said in a PCSO release. “This boat will be utilized for search and rescue on the rivers and flooded areas and will be able to go where normal boats are not able to travel. We have been wanting a boat like this for many years but did not have a budget for it. This goes to show you what perseverance will do, and it has paid off.”

    The PCSO Boat and Water program is currently supervised by Sgt. Scott Bixby. Bixby began supervising the program in 2015 and has been very active with the program, maintaining the boats, program equipment, lake coverage schedules and training for the deputies. In Bixby’s first year at the helm of the program, they doubled the contacts on the water and aggressively stepped-up boat and water safety education.

Duties for the officers include patrolling the lakes and rivers, search and rescue, boat inspections, raft permits, educational talks and handing out hundreds of boat and safety coloring books to children.   

    The PCSO works in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. A benefit of that collaboration has allowed the PCSO to apply each year for federal equipment grants. County agencies throughout Minnesota submit applications that are reviewed by a panel for consideration. Each county boat and water safety program application is reviewed and the federal equipment grant itself is decided based on the request in the application and the program activity.  

    Past grants to PCSO include:

    • 2016 - $12,558 for a Yamaha personal watercraft

    • 2018 - $15,595 for a replacement outboard motor for one of the patrol boats

    • 2020 - $52,535 for an Alumitech Airboat, for use in search and rescue operations in low water areas.

    Tadman said the grants are very competitive, and noted that the PCSO has been very fortunate to have been awarded several.

    The PCSO was recognized by the DNR for having zero accidents on all of its waters in Polk County from 2015-18. Since 2018, two, minor, non-injury, property damage crashes reported to the PCSO.  Any damage over $2,000 is required to be reported to the state.  

    The infrequency of accidents can be attributed to the hard work and dedication of the deputies patrolling the lakes and rivers educating the enthusiasts they encounter, Tadman said. “Education plays a big part in keeping everyone safe while enjoying our great outdoors,” he added. “Keeping everyone safe is our main priority.”

    Boating activity in Polk County has doubled in the last three to four years, Tadman notes. “We are not trying to wreck your day while we patrol on the lakes and rivers,” he said. “We just want to make sure everyone stays safe, drivers are sober, every boat has the proper equipment and required number of life jackets to keep everyone afloat in case something unfortunate occurs.”