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New riverfront business preparing to open

VIDALIA — Garrett Yelverton said he feels as if he’s been swimming against the current of bureaucracy for eight months trying to get his business open at the old boat ramp on the Vidalia riverfront.

Now with all the preparation work complete, Yelverton is just waiting to sign a lease with the City of Vidalia to tie up his river business and start welcoming customers.

His company, Upriver Boat Supply, will restock riverboats with groceries and supplies with hopes of also providing fuel-refilling services in the future.

If the company receives final approval and begins operating, it will be the only docking station of its kind between Vicksburg and Baton Rouge.

Yelverton was granted permission at a September Vidalia Board of Aldermen meeting to begin preliminary work on the site until he received approval to open from the Vidalia Riverfront Development Committee.

That work included building a dead-man anchor and finding an office building, among other work to prepare the site.

“All the work is done and we have everything ready to go, we’re just waiting to sign the lease with the city,” Yelverton said. “We’d like to have opened yesterday, but when you’re dealing with any city it’s going to take some time.”

Mayor Hyram Copeland said all businesses wanting to locate to the riverfront must first get approval from the committee before getting final approval from the board.

“Once it’s cleared by the commission then it comes back to the city council and that’s just standard procedure,” Copeland said. “But we’ve never had a business not get approved by the commission either.”

City attorney Scott McLemore said the commission granted approval for the business to locate at the riverfront, and the next step is drafting a lease for the property.

“Now it’s going to come back from the commission, and we have to actually put together the lease and have it approved and advertised,” McLemore said. “It’s a long process, but it’s something we have to do with anything on the riverfront.

“We have to follow certain rules for certain statues, and this is just a long statue.”

After the lease is drafted, advertised in the local newspaper and brought back before the board, McLemore said the company will have cleared all the steps to begin operating.

While Yelverton said he was aware of the long process that came with locating to the riverfront, he said taking the risk of preparing the site without final approval was necessary to get a jumpstart on the operations.

The initial approval from the board in September included a clause that any money spent on the site would be lost if the business did not receive approval.

“We’re in there to stay, and we just got so tired of waiting, so we figured any work we could do to put us ahead would be worth it in the long run,” Yelverton said. “We’ve been working on the whole project for probably seven or eight months, so we’re not going anywhere.”

With site preparation complete, Yelverton said the last piece of the puzzle on his end — after signing the lease— is bringing in a barge to serve as their working dock.

The company will use an existing building next to the River View RV Park as their office buildings.

“I’ve broken my back trying to get this business going, so we’re just really hoping we can start as soon as possible,” Yelverton said. “I think it’ll be a good thing for the entire area.”