A member of the panel that oversees an historic warship says it's not going to be easy to decide whether to move the ship from Evansville, Indiana to Peoria.
LST 325 board member Ron Wolfgang was one among a couple dozen people to attend a public hearing on the issue Tuesday evening. The City of Peoria is trying to bring the ship to its riverfront, specifically at the foot of Liberty Street. The cost of building a dock to hold the LST 325 is $1.5 million. $40,000 more would be put towards improving the River Station, which would house the ship's management offices. Annually, the city estimates spending around $50,000 a year to keep the LST 325 in town.
The City Council can vote to extend an offer for the ship, but the LST 325 board will have the ultimate say as to where it is docked next. Wolfgang says while he's leaning towards Peoria, it will be tough for him to vote to wrest the ship away from Evansville.
"There is a passion for the ship down there," said Wolfgang. "I am torn."
Wolfgang says he and other board members are a little frustrated with the City Council for taking so long to come up with a decision.
"But yet, it's something that you can't just give a quick answer to. So, we're willing to wait a little longer on it," Wolfgang said.
Some have voiced concerns ranging from the cost of the project to where the city wants to put the ship. Critics say the city doesn't have the money to spend on it, while others say the ship should be moved closer towards the Riverplex. Assistant City Manager Chris Setti says much of the price tag could be covered by grants and private donations, and moving the ship upriver would cost an extra $150,000 towards the construction of a new building for office space.
Setti says, in addition to being cheaper, the proposed location would put the ship right next to the Riverfront Museum and the Caterpillar Visitor's Center, creating an easily-accessible tourism complex.
The City Council in May voted to defer deciding on offering the LST 325 board a five year contract in order to give more time for public input and research. It is set to debate the matter at its meeting next Tuesday.