Monday, March 26, 2007

North Lake Tahoe Bonanza - News

Climbing onto my Soapbox:

The Washoe County Sheriff's Office's search & rescue team has a few new toys: a sidescan sonar and an ROV, the sonar costing $40,000 and the ROV costing $32,000. This story raised so many issues and questions that I can only mention the glaring ones. (viewing the article may require you to register an email address)

First of all, the source of the money that purchased these items. The story mentions that the sheriff's office sold some old pieces of equipment and received donations from charities to fund the purchase of the sonar, and boasted that the system was purchased "without spending any taxpayer money." So, it wasn't taxpayers that donated to the charities in the first place? And I suppose that the "old equipment" wasn't originally paid for by taxpayers? And when the sheriff sells "old equipment", doesn't that money belong to the taxpayers?

Why was this even mentioned in the article? Is the sheriff's office just a little too anxious to preempt charges of spending the taxpayers money without cause?

The ROV was paid for with Homeland Security funds. Oh well then, at least the source of that total waste of money wasn't local taxpayers, but the taxpayers of the whole country.

OK, I'm off my soapbox. I'm better now....

So, here is another thing I see in this story: a new income source for towers. Rob Butler spoke about his new ROV in Clearwater this past January. This kind of super-specialized equipment has some potential for higher returns than a towboat if you are in the right market. Any large shipping port with a regular traffic of cargo ships, barges and warships will certainly need the services of ROVs for inspections. Sidescan sonar is an excellent technology for locating stuff on the bottom, but perhaps not as in demand or as versitile as an ROV.

ROV work is a natural extension of towing & salvage: you already have the means to transport an ROV with a small, well equipped boat operated by a licensed captain. You probably have space to store an ROV, and the maintanence skills to keep it running. I wonder what a used one goes for?