The divers are not the only ones who need an air supply when they use the Wayne County Sheriff's Office's inflatable Zodiac boat.

The boat needs it as well.

The boat has so many holes in it that a fire department-type air pack bottle is attached to it during operations to keep it inflated.

Tuesday morning Wayne County commissioners agreed with Sheriff Larry Pierce that it is time to replace the boat, the age of which is unknown.

Pierce told commissioners the boat was obtained sometime in the 1990s from Pitt County after it was no longer needed there. Pitt County had gotten the boat through military surplus.

But even with its problems, the boat is still serviceable, and its motor was replaced last year, Pierce said.

"The boat I am asking for was in the CIP (capital improvement plan) for next year, but Mar-Mac's (Fire Department's) boat (engine) just went out," Pierce said. "They are not going to replace it because it is too expensive to do that. The boat I requested is for us to have a boat at the Sheriff's Office."

The Arrington Fire Department has the only other boat in the county for a dive team, Pierce said.

That boat was out of commission for some time last year, but is now back in operation, Pierce said.

"This particular boat I am requesting, it is particularly for going into shallow areas," he said. "The boat that Mar-Mac and Arrington have is the jet propulsion. It draws water in from the bottom so they can only go in certain areas. It has to be a certain depth.

"This boat I am requesting, I guess you would call it a mud boat. It's what swamp people use. It will go through shallow mud. It will go over stumps."

There are times when there are portions of the Neuse River than cannot be accessed without going over shallow areas, Pierce said.

"That is the reason I am requesting this type boat," he said.

The $30,000 approved by commissioners includes the boat and motor.

The propeller is designed to meet OSHA safety standards, Pierce said.

The boat also is equipped with a side-scan sonar for locating bodies and evidence underwater, Pierce said.

Pierce plans to use funds from his office's federal forfeitures for the purchase. That program encompasses the seizure and forfeiture of assets that represent the proceeds of, or were used to facilitate federal crimes.

Pierce said his office is also looking for another surplus Zodiac to replace the one he already has.

The Grantham Fire Department has a boat that was donated by the Mount Olive Rescue Squad several years ago, Pierce said.

The fire department uses that boat to respond to the Ferry Bridge Road boat landing to assist boaters in trouble, he said.

But it is a "deep V" hull with limited use since it is unable to navigate certain areas of the Neuse River, Pierce said.

Commissioner Wayne Aycock said he knows that the Seven Springs Fire Departments has boats, too, but that he does not know what kind.

"I know that during the hurricane the fire department had a small, I would call it a Jon Boat," Pierce said.

Also in a memo to commissioners about the purchase Pierce wrote, "The Sheriff's Office (dive) team is the only team in the area that is certified to work in the environment that we are called to respond. The next closest team is out of Fayetteville.

"Our team works closely with the volunteers, but it is becoming increasingly problematic to rely solely on volunteer resources for our team to function safely and reliably. OSHA ad NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) standards recommend that two boats be in the water during rescue missions for life safety issues. With the limited access that we now have to boats it is extremely difficult to accomplish this."