City helps Pelican Breeze stay afloat

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 29, 2002

The Pelican Breeze pontoon boat got a $1,000 gift from the city council, but after some debate among council members, the money may come from funds that usually go to the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

At its meeting Tuesday night, the council agreed to a request from the Pelican Breeze Foundation for funds to be used to pay for brochures and advertising. According to representatives from the foundation, the brochures have already been printed and are being placed now by volunteers in motels, restaurants and other locations throughout southern Minnesota and northern Iowa.

&uot;This is the first time that we’ve requested cash from the city,&uot; said Marlys Webber, a Pelican Breeze volunteer.

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The boat lost a month worth of cruises last June because of high water from flooding, and now have been hit with much higher insurance costs than they anticipated, said Webber.

The Pelican Breeze is facing a $5,500 deficit, said Linda Phelps, the group’s treasurer. It comes after paying $4,500 in insurance, which had to be paid up front for the season, she added.

Dick Webber, one of the boat’s captains, spoke before the council for the group, telling them the boat has brought many people into Albert Lea from across the country. Only the captains get paid a nominal fee, to help them with uniform purchases and keeping their piloting licenses current, Webber said. All the rest of those involved donate their labor.

Others present praised the work those volunteers.

&uot;If the aim is to make Albert Lea Lake a tourist destination, then the Pelican Breeze is the vanguard. We need to support it,&uot; said Don Sorenson.

Although providing the funding seemed to have the support of most of the council, debate centered on where the money would come from. George Marin suggested the city provide the funding, with the city manager to decide where to take it from &045; including the council’s own budget, if necessary. David McPherson seconded the motion, but Ron Sorenson offered an amendment that the funds come directly from the city’s lodging tax, which usually goes to the city convention and visitor’s bureau (CVB).

Sorenson said that city revenues have been weak so far this year, and cuts may be necessary before the year is over, and he wanted a firm idea about where the money for the Pelican Breeze would come from. Others added that this use of the lodging tax was probably legitimate, since it is being used to promote and advertise the service primarily outside the city of Albert Lea.

The final decision gave the Pelican Breeze the needed cash, but with the money coming from the amount the city collects in lodging tax above and beyond what it appropriates to the CVB.