The Delta Queen isn't going anywhere, after all—for at least six months.
Members of Mayor Andy Berke's administration announced Tuesday afternoon an agreement had been brokered between the city and Xanterra LLC, a Colorado-based company that owns the vessel and is trying to sell it.
Under the agreement, the boat's owners will commit to ensuring that all future payments are made on time. In exchange, the boat will stay moored at Coolidge Park for at least six months while a possible sale is negotiated between Xanterra and a new owner.
In a news release, Travis McDonough said the mayor's office was excited about the arrangement, adding that the city would remain open to working with a future owner who wanted the 86-year-old vessel to stay in Chattanooga.
"We are excited to have a plan for the Delta Queen going forward," McDonough said. "We have extended the agreement for another six months at the request of Xanterra Cruises while they continue to work through the sale of the boat. We want to ensure that the agreement with the city is honored going forward and that the Delta Queen is an asset to the city."
The extension is not the city's first to Xanterra. Since the company began marketing the steamboat, other extensions have been offered by the city to allow it to stay—until a combination of late payments, concerns about the boat falling into disrepair and a possible change in law that could allow the Delta Queen to carry passengers again prompted Berke to hit its owners with a Sept. 30 deadline to have the boat removed from the waterfront or pay additional fees.
A Chattanooga Times Free Press report also quoted a spokeswoman for Berke who said the mayor received complaints from residents who had become frustrated with the boat's obstruction of views from Coolidge Park.
Stacy Richardson, Berke's senior adviser and chief policy officer, said that from the beginning the city's concern was to ensure that the boat would remain an asset to Chattanooga, rather than a liability.
"We believe the agreement we've reached is forward-focusing," Richardson said.
Richardson said that other than Xanterra's commitments to paying rental fees on time, the city would not require any additional "large-scale changes" to be made to the 88-room steamboat during the six-month period. Once the initial deadline is reached, sometime near next March, the city will re-examine elements of the arrangement for the Delta Queen with Xanterra or a new owner.
Hans Desai, vice president of Xanterra, thanked the city for being flexible.
"For the past several months, we have been in discussions with potential buyers for the Delta Queen," Desai said in the same news release distributed by Berke's office. "While we believe we are close to achieving an agreement with a buyer, the transaction is not complete. We appreciate the flexibility of the city in working through this process."
No other details regarding a sale of the Delta Queen to a new owner or a possible relocation were offered from either the city or Xanterra. Still, Richardson said Berke's office is open to working to keep the boat in Chattanooga for the foreseeable future.
"We're committed to working with the new owner to make Chattanooga the permanent home of the Delta Queen if they desire," Richardson said.
Updated @ 8:49 p.m. on 9/18/13 to correct a factual error: It is not part of the agreement with the city that Xanterra will pay the $11,000 they already owe the city, as originally reported.
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