Sleepy Eye City Council OKs pontoon boat donation

SLEEPY EYE — In an effort to continue the community’s 12-year tradition of providing free pontoon boat and fishing experiences to seniors, veterans, people with special needs and youth, the Sleepy Eye City Council unanimously approved a resolution to donate $5,000 towards the purchase of a new wheel chair-accessible, 25-foot pontoon boat, motor and trailer March 13.

Sleepy Eye Sportsmen’s Boating & Bobbers Interim Vice President Dave Theneman said the local “Let’s Go Fishing” chapter dissolved Jan. 31 after the main organization got into financial trouble and sought $14,000 for each boat local chapters had.

Theneman said the local “Lets Go Fishing” pontoon boat was returned to the organization and a local interim board of directors was established and the Sleepy Eye Sportsmen’s Boating & Bobbers’ was created under the umbrella of the Sleepy Eye Sportsmen’s Club and its’ non-profit status

Theneman said a $5,000 down payment has been made for a new $31,500 boat from TMC, Inc of Poskin, Wis. He said the boat should be delivered in early June. He said more than 1,000 people rode the pontoon boat last year including many nursing home and senior citizen residents of the area. The local organization has 42 volunteers who work as captains and first mates on the Sleepy Eye Lake pontoon boat.

“As you can see, the reason this is successful is that the whole community has come together to support it,” Theneman wrote in a letter to the city council. “We’ve taken about 10,000 people for boat rides and fishing. over a dozen years. We have an impact on a large area of Southern Minnesota.”

“This is a great program. Senior citizens already paid their dues Let’s give something back to them,” said councilor Dick Zinniel, whose motion was seconded by Larry Braun.

The city council learned about the prospects of adding an iPaddlePort station of up to 8 kayaks and SUPs (Stand-Up Paddle boards) that could be placed at the Sleepy Eye Lake south beach. The station with locks, custom graphics, decals, solar-powered vents, a 14 feet by 6 feet single axle trailer and assembly costs $18,999. Kayaks cost $849 per single and $1,099 for tandems. SUPs cost $1,199.

“In the long run, it wouldn’t cost the City,” City Manager Mark Kober said “They can be rented online via iPhone apps, similar to how bicycles are rented now at Sportsmens Park. Rental fees stop when the boats are returned. We’ll discuss it more at the April meeting.”

Sleepy Eye Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chris Andres said the kayaks and paddle boards are so popular at Albert Lea lakes, the City of Albert Lea can’t keep up with demand.” She said kayak fees average about $14 per use.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at