วันจันทร์ที่ 30 มีนาคม พ.ศ. 2552
City council removes tourist attraction from Park and Rec budget reductions
By Katie Johnson (Contact)
Funding for the Spamtown Belle will keep the Mill Pond boat afloat — at least for now.
The paddlewheel attraction was on the list of proposed cuts for the Austin City Council to review in the Austin Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department.
Operated by volunteers from June through September, the boat has a history of being out-of-commission due to repairs. Council members debated whether or not to eliminate its $1,100 contribution slated for 2009 and 2010 Monday night.
Belle Captain Dick Nordin spoke at the meeting, and explained that last year, one-third of riders were from out-of-town, and the boat had 1,000 riders in August and September. The boat was in for repairs most of the season.
“Quality of life — that’s important to a community,” Nordin said when stating his case.
Rides are $1 for kids and $2 for adults. The boat was donated to the city in 1999.
“The issue I have is, that pond gets so green and skanky during the summer,” Mayor Tom Stiehm said.
Nordin suggested the boat be moved back to East Side Lake.
The Belle has long been a controversial topic in the community, as some see it as a tourist draw, while others view it as a waste of money.
“We hear from people all the time … you have a boat, and you have layoffs,” Stiehm told Nordin of its proposed budget elimination.
Insurance for the boat costs $2,000, Nordin said. If the city paid that, he should be able to fundraise to keep it operational.
“I agree with you, Dick--it’s a really neat vessel,” council member Jeff Austin said. “Part of what has worked against you is the condition of the boat.”
The fact that Austin has two ice arenas — Packer and Riverside — has long been another hot topic in the community.
Tom Dankert, director of administrative services, has reiterated many times that the facilities were never meant to be money-makers, but services for citizens in the city. However, Erichson said Riverside has been very busy with events lately.
One proposal is to close an arena, likely Packer, to save an estimated $90,000 in 2010.
“If we were to close an arena, we would recommend closing it in fall 2009,” Erichson said. “The big decisions start hitting in fall 2009.”
Council member Janet Anderson said she wants more information before even considering closing one or the other. She suggested getting more information from interested parties.
“I have a hard time, when you are taking away things for the youth of Austin to do,” council member Steve King said. “Yeah, it’s $90,000. It’s a lot of money.”
Other Park and Rec reductions that have been recommended for approval April 6 include: waiting to replace the public pool vacuum, tile and equipment; using temporary staffing for secretary, director Kim Underwood’s former position; reducing the pool season by two weeks to June 13 through Aug. 16; increasing pool fees and private rental rates; eliminate tree-planting in the boulevard; reducing hours and days of the Youth Activity Center; and reducing temporary salaries for baseball parks and the Izaak Walton Cabin.
The council voted to recommend all proposed cuts in the Park and Rec budget for approval April 6, with the exception of keeping the Spamtown Belle and waiting to get more information about the arenas. Council members Dick Pacholl and John Martin voted against the motion.
Another work session will be held at 6 p.m. Monday to discuss proposed public safety cuts. The line items from each city department will be on the agenda for approval April 6.