PENTICTON-KELOWNA - Fintry Queen owner Andy Schwab experienced rough seas at city hall but managed to make it a little closer to shore Monday night.
Council was both excited and cautious about Schwab's idea to bring the 140-foot paddle boat to Penticton. Schwab wants to park and operate it from a dock he would build with his own money near the Kiwanis Walking Pier. The vessel is currently in Kelowna where an uncertain park and waterfront development schedule has driven Schwab to friendlier ports.
"My feeling is (you) snooze you lose guys and here is an opportunity for Penticton," Schwab said.
There was opposition but council had enough votes to direct city staff to continue working with Schwab on the logistical and legal details. Coun. Andrew Jakubeit pointed out council can always say no if there is something they don't like or they can't come to an agreement with him.
The owner said he could have the boat ready to go for the 2014 spring-summer season.
His dream is to run the 325-passenger vessel as it had previously, as a dining and tour ship, as well as a means of transit. He has said it'd be great for wine tours where passengers could board in Summerland, cross Okanagan Lake and visit Naramata wineries before heading back to Summerland where their vehicles are parked.
Coun. Katie Robinson felt council is moving too quickly and needs more information on safety issues, such as how the boat will dock in high winds and near the walking pier.
Schwab said he visited the shoreline when it was windy to gauge conditions. He would also install removable pilings, in addition to his dock, to cradle the craft and keep it in position when it's parked. As for the city's existing marina, it's too shallow while the shoreline near the walking pier has the depth and other characteristics such as visibility.
Robinson said that's another cause for caution as the city is still massaging its waterfront development project and it would need more time to see how the Fintry Queen fits.
"It's everybody's backyard, I do appreciate that," Schwab said about the boat fitting in with the shoreline.
Jakubeit and Coun. John Vassilaki were eager to consider the vessel but wanted more assurances if the business fails the city will not be stuck with an empty boat.
"I don't want to use taxpayers' money to move it elsewhere," Vassilaki said.
Schwab said he was open to discussion which Vassilaki appeared happy to hear.
"It's a great tourist concept for Penticton," the councillor said.
"You are certainly throwing a lot of money at this venture," Jakubeit pointed out to which Schwab agreed. It will cost Schwab about $300,000 to build the dock and pay for Transport Canada and other government permits.
Schwab wouldn't be before council if the business case wasn't solid. He said the boat has $800,000 in upgrades, burns only 15 litres of fuel an hour, making it as efficient as a pick-up truck, and it only needs exterior and interior paint jobs.
In addition to attracting tourists to downtown, the Fintry Queen would benefit Piers Water Sports Rentals and provide $300,000 in wages and benefits for 40 to 60 employees every year.
"I really want to come here guys," Schwab said. "This has been a passion of mine for a lot of years."
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