Spamtown Belle to be ‘dry-docked’; Park Board cites extensive repairs as reason

Published 8:56 am Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Members of the Austin Park Board determined to “dry-dock” the Spamtown Belle paddleboat during the board’s regular meeting on May 1.

The decision was based on the need for repairs and upgrades for the boat’s drivetrain, electrical system and trailer, which are estimated to cost around $30,000.

“The board decided the plug is pulled unless these things get brought up to speed,” said Park and Recreation Director Kevin Nelson.

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The Spamtown Belle was built in 1956. Years later, it was found in poor condition in Iowa. After a restoration effort, it was donated to the city in 1999, where it provided tours of East Side Lake during weekends in summer. Tours were free, but donations were accepted to help maintain the boat.

“It has been running on a donation budget to pay for upkeep, and there is not a whole lot of money in that budget,” Nelson said. “We like to provide as many recreational opportunities as we can in the community, but within the means of the budget.”

Because the Spamtown Belle has operated on a “donation-only” budget, it has not been included as a line item for capital improvements or replacement.

Nelson also cited the unavailability of parts as another reason for the board’s decision.

Nelson indicated the board might be open to discussions about the Spamtown Belle if individuals or groups wish to fund the needed repairs.