BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Just two weeks after giving a budgetary thumbs up to continue with the Amtrak depot relocation project, city officials are now moving in the direction of a Viking Cruise line dock.
At Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Fort Madison City Council, councilmen will be considering a recommendation from City Manager David Varley to enter into a feasibility study to look at what hurdles exist to building a docking facility for Viking Cruise Lines.
The cruise company relaunched its efforts to provide domestic cruises in the United States after finding a shipbuilder in Louisiana. US maritime laws require that domestic cruise ships be built in the United States.
Fort Madison has been on Viking’s radar as a possible stop as part of its northern Mississippi Cruises. A seven-day, one-way trip from St. Louis, Mo., to St. Paul, Minn could include a stop in Fort Madison on day three. Part of Viking’s interest in Fort Madison is the Old Fort and potentially Nauvoo.
As part of Tuesday’s discussion, Varley is recommending the city enter an agreement with SmithGroup of Madison Wis., for $24,500 plus reimbursable expenses for the feasibility study. Expenses listed as reimbursable include travel expenses related to the project at federal rate (54.5 cents/mile), printing costs, shipping, models and renderings, regulatory review fees, special consultants with city’s prior approval, and a 10% management fee.
“We are negotiating a letter of intent with Viking for them to stop in Fort Madison. However, we need to know if we can provide the channel size and depth they will require for their ships as our current configuration will not meet their needs,” Varley wrote in a memo to councilmen on Friday.
Varley said the city needed to hire the firm first to make sure the city can meet the requirements, as well as to provide a cost for any necessary improvements.
Viking has indicated they would be willing to contribute to the cost of the improvements, but Varley said any agreement to move forward would require those figures be included.
The city received two proposals for the work, the second coming from Poepping, Stone, Bach and Associates of Keokuk for $25,300. Varley recommended SmithGroup because of their expertise in Viking Cruises and their close relationship with the company working on projects with them around the world.
Part of SmithGroup’s proposal could include a workshop with community leaders and stakeholders to explore options and opportunities possible for the facility, as well as funding options including grants and matching funds.
Varley wrote that the city could reduce costs by foregoing the workshop and just focusing on what the dock would require for the 450-foot vessel and not any additional amenities.
Initially, Viking could be starting with one tour a week, but moving to possibly as many as three landings a week over a period of three to five years. Early figures would show the city would receive $1 for each traveler on the cruise ship per docking. The ships are built to hold 380-to 390 passengers.
In other action, the council will also vote:
- on the purchase of a new fire/rescue boat from Dave’s Riverview Marine at a cost of $21,224. The air boat will replace the current boat which is 17 years old.
- to approve the appointment of Kathy Burkhardt to the Fort Madison Public Library Board to fill a term expiring on June 30, 2020 and reappoint Richar Abel to the Old Fort Commission for a term expiring March 31, 2022.
- to sever or “de-annex” property located at 3023 Timberlane Drive owned by Councilman Chris Greenwald. The city annexed the property in 2012. In a memo to the council, Varley said the city staff felt at the time and currently that the annexation was “unwarranted as city utilities were not planned to be extended to the parcel.” Varley said the move will correct an erroneously approved annexation. The city will lose $2,132 in property taxes with the recommended approval.
- to adopt the 2019-2020 fiscal year budget.