Concert Barge In Good Shape After All

A 70-year-old barge used by an Ohio River city as a floating concert stage has been found to be in relatively good shape despite an earlier inspection that led Jeffersonville to buy a replacement barge.

The News and Tribune reports that the Feb. 6 inspection by Louisville-based Riverlands Marine Surveyors and Consultants Inc. found that the RiverStage I needs no hull repairs and could be used for another five to 10 years.

The findings of the inspection performed at the request of Mayor Mike Moore are contrary to information that former Mayor Tom Galligan’s administration gave the public about the old barge.

Galligan’s administration cited a review that found the barge would be cost-prohibitive to maintain past 2013. That finding was used to justify the city’s purchase last year of a new $370,000 entertainment barge.

City Council President Ed Zastawny said he doesn’t know why Moore’s and Galligan’s assessments of the old barge differed so greatly.

“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,” he said.

Jeffersonville had planned to turn the barge purchased last year into a new floating stage and rental venue. However, renovation estimates came in higher than expected at $2.3 million and the vessel has been docked since last summer.

Moore said he’ll move forward with his plans to sell the new barge, which is called RiverStage II.

City Councilman Dennis Julius said he would have loved to have seen the RiverStage II — which is 100 feet longer, 15 feet wider and one story taller than RiverStage I — but would agree to keeping the old one if it has 10 more years on it.

“I’ll go with the mayor on (the decision),” Julius said.

The recent inspection found that the RiverStage I is valued at about $75,000.

Jeffersonville city parks employees told the inspector they’d seldom had to pump water from the barge’s voids since it became 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,” the report states.

Photos attached to the inspection show some damage to the stage structure that’s built on top of the barge.

“The hull was fine. There’s no concern of it sinking,” Moore said.

He said the city plans to have some minor repairs and painting work done to the stage. Moore hopes those improvements can be finished before RiverStage’s spring season begins. That season usually opens in April for Thunder Over Louisville with regular shows starting in May.

Additionally, a local band, the Louisville Crashers, is being tapped as an adviser in upgrading the barge’s sound system and lighting equipment.