BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A first-of-its-kind boat is helping the Department of Marine Resources show taxpayers just where their tax dollars are going. The AMBAR 12-meter boat cost DMR nearly $285,000 to build and was one of several new vessels that were available for the public to view on Saturday at Point Cadet Plaza in Biloxi.
All of the vessels were purchased by the state agency over the last year. The acquisitions come after a former DMR director was convicted of conspiracy for allegedly misusing taxpayer dollars.
DMR Chief Keith Davis says the agency decided to put the boats on display to show complete transparency to taxpayers so they know their money is being used responsibly.
"The Department of Marine Resources is very transparent with taxpayer money," said Chief Davis. "So we wanted to invite the public out and see exactly what their tax dollars have purchased as far as our vessel fleet."
The new AMBAR boat has speeds of up to 60 miles per hour and can make sharp turns as needed. DMR officials say they are very excited about the new addition, adding that it's going to help improve their rescue missions.
"It's fantastic, being a new vessel," said DMR patrol officer Mario Saped. "Today is my first day being on the vessel and actually driving it. It handles better than some of our smaller vessels."
According to Chief Davis, the AMBAR was chosen to help better provide officers with the tools they need to conduct scientific research and law enforcement in the coastal waterways.
"When we started looking at upgrading our fleet, a lot of input came from officers who actually operate the vessels," said the chief. "So the design of this vessel was a result of input from those officers and what they have encountered offshore."
Also on display at Point Cadet was The Conservationist, an oyster boat that was acquired by DMR in the 1980's. The boat sank in 2014 after a mechanical failure but has since been repaired. It will be used to transport oysters.