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Published: Sunday, 9/23/2007

Thieves take pedal-boat business' gear

Less than a month after the grand opening, business at a new pedal-boat rental in International Park on the city's east side was stalled yesterday after thieves made off with life preservers, seat cushions, and navigation lights.

Robert William Russ, who won over Toledo City Council with his idea late last month, said that his disappointment in the theft went deeper than the $1,500 he'll have to spend in replacement costs. Instead, the native Toledoan, who has returned after a working as a filmmaker in Los Angeles, said that petty crime like this sends a message to Toledo and its visitors.

"It's a lot bigger than life vests and navigation lights. It's about an attitude and respect for our city," Mr. Russ said yesterday.

"The theft is not a big deal. It's $1,500 in dumb stuff," he added. "But the message here is that this is unacceptable and if we don't respect ourselves, the rest of the nation won't either."

Mr. Russ and his business partner, Andy Howard, plan to have 30 boats in the water next spring but started up the business with four boats that are available nightly at International Park.

They said they are complying with all safety laws, including registering the boats, equipping them with life preservers and running lights, and having insurance and a rescue boat on hand.

Mr. Russ said that he will have to shut down until he can replace the equipment and acquire new registration papers for the boats.

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