SNOW HILL– Town of Snow Hill officials voted this week to proceed with repairs to the Black-Eyed Susan.
The Snow Hill Town Council voted 2-1 Tuesday to proceed with the repairs needed to get the municipality’s riverboat back to Snow Hill. The boat has been docked in Norfolk since a Coast Guard inspection there revealed the Black-Eyed Susan (BES) needed extensive improvements.
“The council voted last night to proceed with the most minimal repairs to the BES in order to get her back to Snow Hill for whatever use we can make of her as a floating venue while taking time to pursue funding from a variety of sources for the full repairs which will return her to regular service,” Snow Hill Town Manager Rick Pollitt said in an email.
Snow Hill purchased the Black-Eyed Susan in 2020 with the help of a loan from Worcester County. Though the boat had a successful season in 2021, when the BES went to Norfolk early this year for a Coast Guard inspection that’s required every five years, officials learned major repairs were needed. Initial estimates said it would cost $300,000 in repairs to get the boat in sufficient condition to be towed back to Snow Hill and docked. It was estimated $600,000 in repairs would be needed to bring the paddleboat back to fully operational condition. Pollitt, who traveled to a Norfolk shipyard last week to see the boat and reported back to the council Tuesday, said updated estimates pegged the cost of the minimal repairs at $193,000.
“This was a revised number based on our visit with the shipyard last week,” he said.
Jim Washington, the riverboat’s operator, said he supported the town’s decision regarding the boat.
“I’m glad to see it’s coming back,” he said.
He said his contract with the town would be “on hiatus” while officials arranged for repairs and explored potential funding options. While Washington is pleased with the council’s decision, he said he would have also stood by elected officials if they’d thought it was best to sell the boat. He stressed that while the repairs weren’t anticipated, the entire riverboat project had been undertaken to help the town.
“People with good intentions were blindsided by this whole mess,” he said.
Pollitt said Wednesday a press release from the town with more information would be forthcoming.