Superior taps local company for emergency vessel

Lake Assault Boats chosen to custom build boat for regional emergency response teams at SPD

Lake Assault Boats employee Don Potvien connects a duct for bilge fan at the stern of the Duluth Fire Department’s new all-hazard response boat delivered earlier this year. The Superior City Council on Tuesday approved having Lake Assault Boats build a rapid response vessel for the Superior Police Department's tactical and dive teams. (Duluth News Tribune file)
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The Superior Police Department is shopping locally as it seeks a rapid response vessel for its tactical and dive teams.

The City Council approved forgoing the bidding process and allowing Lake Assault Boats in Superior to manufacture the specialized watercraft. The firm is part of Fraser Shipyards and builds mission-oriented boats for fire and police departments and rescue and dive teams nationwide.

“I would like the option of sole-sourcing the purchase through Lake Assault Boats to keep the money we are spending in our local community,” Police Chief Nicholas Alexander wrote in a memo to the Council.

The department’s emergency response and dive teams represent one of the regional Aligned Law Enforcement Response Teams in Wisconsin, and as such, receive funding for training and equipment from the Wisconsin Emergency Management Agency to achieve a higher level of emergency response, said Superior Police Chief Nicholas Alexander.

Developed in 2004, ALERT teams may be called in to provide help when events overwhelm local law enforcement agencies, such as acts of terror or other events that require a tactical response. Statewide, there are eight Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) regional teams involving 10 law enforcement agencies, and five regional Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams.


Alexander said the city anticipates receiving $245,000 in 2020 from Wisconsin Emergency Management to pay for the new vessel.

The boat being sought is classified as a ridge-hulled inflatable boat, a 30-foot vessel capable of reaching speeds of 50 mph and capable of transporting tactical or dive teams and their gear in large water for a considerable distance.

The boat is an aluminum-hulled craft that adds stability and buoyancy so you can carry more people and operate in heavy sea conditions, said Bob Beck, director of marketing and sales for Lake Assault Boats. Furthermore, he said the boat is capable of coming alongside another vessel without damaging it because of the foam air collar.

Lake Assault Boat was founded in Elk River, Minnesota, in 2003 by Jerry Atherton, who sold the company to Fraser in December 2009 and moved the shop to the shipyards.

Beck estimated the company has built about 150 customized boats including the Duluth Fire Department’s new vessel delivered earlier this year. It would take the company 150 to 180 days to build the boat, depending on the complexity of the project.

“We firmly believe that we want to be supporting the local economy, local folks as much as possible,” Beck said.

Alexander advised councilors that agreeing to utilize Lake Assault Boats, which provides General Services Administration pricing, to build Superior’s boat could have a bigger impact on the local economy than Superior’s new vessel would provide.

“ALERT, through Wisconsin Emergency Management, will be funding a vessel for Superior … as well as considering funding for up to three more vessels for other ALERT teams in the state with major ports or waterways,” the chief wrote about Green Bay, Milwaukee and La Crosse. He said if Superior’s vessel is well received, it could result in additional contracts for the local business.


“Lake Assault has built a great reputation in the custom boat-building market and has built many boats for both law enforcement and the fire service,” Alexander stated.

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