Lycoming County Commissioners approved $100,000 in COVID relief funds for the Hiawatha Riverboat during their Tuesday meeting.
The popular riverboat struggled over the past 18 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and without the funds would have been left unusable, according to Commissioner Rick Mirabito.
“The Hiawatha organization does not have the money,” Mirabito said. “I personally felt that the community’s sense of wholeness and getting back to normal that the Hiawatha be there and doing what it does.”
Keeping the riverboard in drydock for the season would have cost $50,000 in insurance and other fees, Mirabito added.
The Hiawatha is a nonprofit organization run by a board of directors. In the past, questions have been raised about where the organization receives its funds and if it is funded in part through the River Valley Transit, however the group has denied this in the past and said funds are raised through ticket sales and concessions.
However, it is not enough to keep the boat running, especially with the past year of inactivity, the commissioners said.
“It’s definitely an asset that has been in the community for 40 years,” Metzger said. “These monies are directed toward helping entities such as the Hiawatha and other businesses to recover from COVID-19 devastation.”
However moving forward they are going to have to locate a funding source … whether that be a public partnership or a private entity moving forward.” Metzger said.
Commissioner Tony Mussare reiterated that the $100,000 is a one-time payment and would not be an annual allocation by the county.
The commissioners hailed the riverboat as a vital part of the region’s tourism attractions.