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Inmates get boats shipshape

Alex Green • Apr 3, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Chris Kingler, an Ottawa County inmate, was naturally skeptical about being in the newspaper again.

“I guess it’s a different kind of story” he said.

He was part of a group of six inmates who got the county’s patrol boats in tip-top shape for the upcoming season.

Adding to the irony — the inmates helped law enforcement, the very men who initially locked them up.

But the relationship between the two groups was seemingly positive.

“I’m really proud of these guys,” Ottawa County Sheriff Stephen Levorchick said. “You can go out, get a better job. And keep your butt out of jail”

The work was mostly restoration of the county’s 32-foot and 27-foot Boston Whalers — county equipment since 2011 and 2006 respectively.

One was awarded to the county as part of an Ohio Department of Natural Resources grant, the other through Homeland Security.

While much of the work was cleaning up grit and grime, the men also replaced the bow of one of the boats with fiberglass.

With nearly 100 miles of lake shoreline to go with the county’s love affair with lake activity, securing the water during the spring and summer is paramount to Levorchick.

“Why wouldn’t we (secure it tightly)?” he asked. In recent years, boaters have become frustrated with the seeming abuse of power in the waters by law enforcement. But Ottawa County deputies are bound by state law to report any and all incidents on the lake, unlike federal agencies such as the U.S. Border Patrol. The infamous agency is able to search and seize as it pleases without any obligation to convey the information to the public.

Deputies cited or arrested 12 boaters in all of 2013. The boats are not used to invade boaters’ privacy, Levorchick said. They are a necessity to a county with so much shoreline. So as the lake transforms back from its icy state, Levorchick and deputies are confident in their water toys.

David Nunn, incarcerated at the Ottawa County jail, was straightforward in his assessment of the work. “We took a negative and turned it into a positive” he said. “It’s been a privilege”

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