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Representative says merger reversal bill lead to Water Patrol Division changes

A state representative says a bill filed to reverse the merge of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Water Patrol is the motivation behind a new plan.

Officials announced the planto change certain policies within the Water Patrol Division Thursday.

State Representative Diane Franklin, R-Camdenton, filed House Bill 1960 in January to reverse the 2011 merger of the patrols. The Highway Patrol has been working both internally and with legislators to advance agency improvements for safety on the state’s lakes and rivers.

“The primary goal of the de-merger bill is to, in some way, return the Water Patrol Division to its pre-merger focus and protocol, enhance public safety, increase visibility and devote adequate resources on our waterways,” Franklin said. “The bill forced the Patrol to the table to take meaningful action to boost the Water Patrol Division. I am proud of our de-merger efforts, and I consider the Patrol’s new approach a successful outcome that would not have otherwise come about.”

Franklin said the new strategy entails increasing staff to a total of 20 troopers, including officers with past Water Patrol experience, with extended shifts during the peak boating season at the lake of the Ozarks. In a statement released Thursday, Franklin said Captain Matt Walz, assistant Water Patrol Division director, will assume summertime Water Patrol Division management at Lake of the Ozarks. She said the Patrol will also step up public BWI, boating safety and wake education efforts via social media, local media and literature.

Franklin said the Highway Patrol’s decision to change policy at Lake of the Ozarks holds the promise of a brighter future, reminiscent of the past.

“I am certain this change meets the needs behind HB 1960 and is the solution to our concerns,” Franklin said. “With Captain Walz at the helm to bring experienced management to the Patrol, it will re-kindle the spirit and integrity of the Water Patrol and exceed previous expectations. This new course of action will allow skilled former water officers to use their experience-based abilities on the water again, and it will move us toward full restoration of public safety and confidence with the much-needed resources on the lake. Moving forward with this plan will also maintain the current radio communication infrastructure, which has improved Water Patrol operations since the merger.”

“A lot rides on this plan, and it holds great potential to set the bar for what the Water Patrol Division should be across our state,” Franklin said.

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