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April 18, 2012

Tourism bureau OKs money for RiverStage I

Preparation for Thunder under way

JEFFERSONVILLE — An official request to fund the rehabilitation of RiverStage I instead of renovating a floating barge that was meant to take its place was made by the city of Jeffersonville on Wednesday.

The change in the intended use of the $300,000 in funds dedicated by the Clark-Floyd Counties Convention and Tourism Bureau was unanimously approved by the tourism bureau’s board.

Funding was dedicated last year, as part of a bond sought for several area projects, to go toward the purchase of a new floating entertainment barge — known as RiverStage II — which was slated to replace the city’s current floating stage that hosts concerts and public events. However, the cost to renovate RiverStage II and a change in the city’s administration effectively killed the project.

In order to stay in compliance with the tourism bureau’s bond requirements, Jeffersonville asked that the money that had already been dedicated to the city be made available for the renovations to RiverStage I.

“It was after the city received it and found out what kind of shape it was in ... made renovation costs really cost-prohibitive for the city,” said Jeffersonville Corporation Counsel Tom Lowe.

The RiverStage II barge was purchased last year for $370,000 and is 100 feet longer, 15 feet wider and one story taller than RiverStage I. Lowe said there were several issues with RiverStage II and renovation costs for the boat came in much higher than previously expected, at $2.3 million.

In addition to the cost to store the barge, there was a considerable amount of wiring missing from the boat, which may have been stolen, but would have to be replaced to make it operational.

“Its size has been problematic,” Lowe added.

Costs to make RiverStage II usable were too great for the city and given proper care, a minimum of five more years of life remained on the existing hull of RiverStage I, Lowe said. He added with preventative maintenance, the life of the barge may be extended to 10 years or more.

Among the changes planned for the RiverStage I were costs for a new stage — $5,940 — changes to the lighting system —$85,000 — and upgrades to the barge’s sound system — $78,846. Other modifications planned include painting and adding air conditioning to dressing rooms on the boat.

“It’s going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $285,000 to $300,000 to finish all of the renovations,” Lowe said.

He added that in the future, the city may look into moving the barge downstream about 50 to 70 feet to align it better with the Terrace Lawn, but would need approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The permitting expenses anticipated are about $10,000 and the city would likely build a ramp to the RiverStage if it were moved.

Jeffersonville may receive some money in return for selling RiverStage II, but Lowe said if there is a profit it likely will be minimal.

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