By DAVID A. MANN
A recent inspection found that RiverStage I, the Ohio River barge used for concerts and events in Jeffersonville, needs no hull repairs and has an additional five to 10 years of remaining life.
The inspection, performed at the request of Mayor Mike Moore, was conducted by Louisville-based Riverlands Marine Surveyors and Consultants Inc., on Feb. 6.
The findings are significant because they are contrary to the information the city’s previous administration, under former Mayor Tom Galligan, gave the public about the old barge. The Galligan administration cited a review by American Commercial Lines saying the barge would be cost-prohibitive to maintain past 2013. Those prospective costs were used to justify the purchase of a new entertainment barge, which the city bought last year for $370,000.
Moore said he’ll move forward with plans to sell the new barge, called RiverStage II.
The report values RiverStage I at about $75,000.
City of Jeffersonville Parks employees told the inspector they’d seldom had to pump water from the barge’s voids since it has been a part of Jeffersonville’s fleet. The inspection was done as the barge was floating and the hull below the waterline was not inspected.
“There was no evidence of, or reports of, hull leaks at the time of survey, therefore the need to dry-dock the barge for further survey does not appear necessary,” according to the report.
Photos attached to the inspection show some damage to the stage structure that’s built on top of the barge.
“The hull was fine,” Moore said. “There’s no concern of it sinking.”
Moore said he plans to have some repairs and painting work done to the stage. Additionally, a local band, the Louisville Crashers — led by Jeffersonville businessman Mark Maxwell of Mom’s Music — is being tapped as an adviser in upgrading the barge’s sound system and lighting equipment.
“The renovations will be cosmetic,” he said.
In an interview last month, Moore said he has a buyer that’s interested in RiverStage II.
The city had plans to turn the vessel into a new floating stage and rental venue. However, renovation estimates came in higher than expected at $2.3 million. It has been docked since last summer.
“I’ll go with the mayor on [the decision],” said city Councilman Dennis Julius.
He said he would have loved to have seen the larger vessel — RiverStage II is 100 feet longer, 15 feet wider and one story taller — but will agree to keeping the old one if it has 10 more years on it.
“We were all surprised by the cost to renovate RiverStage II,” said Council President Ed Zastawny.
So how can Moore’s and Galligan’s assessments of the old barge so greatly differ?
“I don’t know,” said Zastawny. “You listen to the mayor, department heads, employees. You try to take them at face value. Maybe one had incomplete information versus the other one.”
Moore is hopeful repairs can be finished before RiverStage’s spring season begins. It usually opens in April for Thunder Over Louisville with regular shows starting in May.