MAYVILLE – The iconic Chautauqua Belle may be looking for a new home.
According to recent information posted online at Facebook by U.S. Steam Lines Ltd., the owners of the Chautauqua Belle, they have been unable to reach a new lease agreement with the Mayville Village Board, which would allow the boat to remain at the Village Park for the 2015 season.
In January, the board reviewed the current lease contract and declined to renew it, due to the wording. The operators of the Chautauqua Belle have taken that to mean the boat is no longer welcome in the village. However, according to a report in Friday’s Post-Journal, Mayville Mayor Marty Bova says that’s not true and the village has actually crafted a new lease contract that will be presented to the owners for consideration in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, a large public outcry of support has taken place on Facebook and other social media and its likely there will be strong support for the Chautauqua Belle to remain in Mayville, when the village board holds its next meeting on Tuesday, Feb 10 at 6 p.m.
One of the four operating paddle-wheel boats left in the United States, the boat has approximately 7,000 to 8,000 guests each year.
LETTER FROM U.S. STEAM LINES LTD. TO VILLAGE (From www.facebook.com/ChautauquaBelle)
U.S. Steam Lines Ltd.
850 Fairmount Avenue Jamestown, New York 14701
Phone: (716) 269-2355
Fax: (716) 483-3515
February 4, 2015
Hon. Martin Bova, Jr.
Village of Mayville
PO Box 188
Mayville, New York 14757
RE: The Chautauqua Belle
Dear Mayor Bova and Members of the Mayville Village Board:
We were extremely disappointed when we attended the January Board meeting and learned of your decision not to renew the lease that has allowed the Chautauqua Belle to operate out of Mayville for the last eight years. However, we wanted to take this opportunity to thank the Village for the relationship we enjoyed.
As you know, the Chautauqua Belle has called the Village of Mayville its home port since it was built in the 1970s. Unfortunately, there was a time period when the then owners of the Belle, the Sea Lyon Project, couldn’t operate her as intended. In fact, there was a realistic concern that the Belle would never sail on Chautauqua Lake again. We purchased the Chautauqua Belle in November of 2006 to make certain that that fear never became reality.
Before our purchase of the Chautauqua Belle was completed (as you may recall, since the seller was a charitable organization, State Supreme Court approval of the sale was required) we met with the Village Board to ensure that the Belle would continue to call Mayville its home port. The relationship that began then continued through the 2014 summer season and, we felt, provided significant mutual benefit to all involved, including local businesses.
The Belle is a rare treasure. It is one of only four operating steamboats left in the United States. The 7,000 to 8,000 guests who ride on her each year attest to her historic and business development values. She is truly a great asset for Chautauqua County, Chautauqua Lake and, until now, the community we have come to love, the Village of Mayville.
We appreciate the patience the Village exhibited with us as a tenant. The Belle required extensive restoration and improvements in order to meet applicable licensing requirements, pass the New York State annual inspection and continue operating. Accomplishing that was incredibly expensive. Unfortunately, the local crime problem has also negatively impacted us. We have been burglarized more than twenty times in the past 4 years, resulting in significant economic losses and requiring capital expenditures by us for crime prevention. These financial strains have sometimes interfered with our ability to timely meet our payment obligations but all of our obligations, including the rental payments to the Village, have been fully paid. I would note, in that regard, that the owners of the Belle have not been depleting its financial resources. During the entire time of our ownership, my grandpa, grandma, father, mother, and many aunts and uncles, have taken no monetary compensation, but donated not hundreds, not thousands, but tens of thousands of hours of time to keep our beloved steamboat in working order. For the past couple of years, I have been able to draw a salary of $2400/year to assist with my college education, the Belle is a labor of love.
While the intent of this letter is to thank the Village for the relationship we enjoyed, it would be wrong not to also mention the contribution of area residents, Michael Macko, Alan Laurita, Duane Buckweitz, and Capt Rick Evans who have contributed to what we have been able to accomplish, and who have done so without compensation. We would also like to thank the business’s, crew and staff, and others who are to many to name. The return of the Chautauqua Belle to Lake Chautauqua has truly been a community accomplishment and we appreciate that many area residents can take pride in what they have accomplished.
We will comply with the Village Board’s instructions, as expressed in the letter we received from your attorney, and will relocate the Chautauqua Belle to a new home as soon as conditions on the lake allow us to do so. We are happy to report that, following your decision, several potential locations for a new home port have been made available to us and accordingly the Chautauqua Belle will continue to be an important attraction for Chautauqua Lake. We hope that you will enjoy seeing her as she steams nearby and will remember that you were an important part of her history.
U.S. Steam Lines Ltd.
By: Mathew Stage, USCG Unlimited OOW
Chief Operating Officer