The Lewiston Village Board unanimously approved a 40-year lease for a waterfront dock for Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours on Monday night. The move is expected to make the popular tourist attraction a permanent feature on the waterfront.
The approval also will clear the way for plans to turn over the longtime landmark Lewiston restaurant, the Riverside Inn, to Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours.
The company had a 20-year lease for the use of the village docks and extended it to 40 years, which was needed for the company to secure financing to buy the Riverside Inn.
Under the old lease, the village received a base rent and a portion of the gross receipts, which range from a maximum total of $15,000 in the beginning years to $40,000 near the end of the lease. The new lease has a range of $15,000 to $60,000.
Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours has been negotiating with Mark Turgeon and his Riverside Inn for many months and this summer took over a small banquet hall at the rear of the restaurant for a gift shop and spent $300,000 to expand the attraction at the base of the Riverside Inn.
Turgeon was unavailable to comment on the current state of negotiations.
However, he is expected to lease back the restaurant from Whirlpool Jet Boats and continue to run it as the Riverside Inn.
John Kinney, president and general manager of the Canadian-based company, said his company has leased space from the Riverside Inn for five years and found expansion was needed due to the popularity of the ride.
Kinney added a third boat last summer and under the new lease is allowed to operate with a maximum of four boats.
He has said he hopes to begin hiring more American employees this season.
Kinney called the Village of Lewiston absolutely fabulous, with levels of cooperation that have been wonderful in these tough economic times.
Mayor Richard F. Soluri was equally impressed. "Whirlpool Jet Boats is always trying to be a good neighbor, and if there are complaints, they try to address them," he said.
He has expressed hopes that the Riverside Inn could benefit from fresh owners that might improve on the current management's mistakes, such as loud outdoor concerts that forced the village to adopt a noise ordinance.
Trustee William Geiben added that Jet Boat Tours has long been using the lower dock areas as a staging area for its rides but said, "Once they own the Riverside Inn, any further development will have to come before the Planning Board."