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Published: Monday, 2/17/2003

Docking flap holds paddlewheel at bay

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

PORT CLINTON - A former riverboat captain at Cedar Point hopes to return one of its restored paddlewheel cruisers for a second summer of excursions on the Portage River. But Ed Ellis said he's hit a snag as he tries to negotiate with City Council for dock space at the Jefferson Street pier.

“They've kind of just been dragging their feet,” Mr. Ellis said. “This is such a great thing, I just don't understand it.”

A council committee wants Mr. Ellis to submit a business plan, but the boat owner said he proved last summer his business could float. Mr. Ellis said nearly 5,000 people boarded the Ogontz, a restored, paddlewheel boat, for 45-minute rides up the river between late July and October last year.

“The business we did last year in Port Clinton was phenomenal, considering we got a late start because of the weather in the spring and having to restore the boat,” he said.

During his abbreviated season, Mr. Ellis operated from rented space at the former Pier Caf , but the building's owner has leased the facility to another tenant who plans to reopen it as a restaurant/bar.

That has left Mr. Ellis looking for a new place to moor his boat, which used to carry passengers on Cedar Point's old “Paddlewheel Excursion” ride.

Mayor Tom Brown said he supports Mr. Elllis' service and hopes council agrees to a lease with him. Mr. Ellis has proposed renting a 15-by-40-foot space at the city pier for $2,000 this year and $2,500 next year.

“He's already made the first step by coming to Port Clinton and being a good seasonal partner,” the mayor said. “Time is of the essence, and council needs to be expeditious in terms of working with him because we do not want to lose him.”

Council's commercial business and development committee is studying Mr. Ellis' proposal, which he presented to the panel Feb. 6. Its chairman, Terry Witter, said the matter could be ready for council action by next week.

In the meantime, he said he'd like more information from Mr. Ellis, including projections on how many customers he expects this year.

Complicating matters is the the Island Express Boat Lines, which leases dock space next to Mr. Ellis' proposed location, may end its Island Rocket ferry service between Port Clinton and Put-in-Bay. Mayor Brown is to meet Friday with ferry company officials.

Bill Annand, general manger of Island Express, could not be reached for comment.



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