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November 18, 2013

Marina plan resurfaces in Jeffersonville

Council’s action could come too late for boat owners

JEFFERSONVILLE — Jeffersonville’s City Council could approve a plan to revitalize the downtown marina, but it may be too late for some local boat owners.

In 12 days, the boat owners moored on the Ohio River in Jeffersonville must move from their docks. A letter sent to the boaters on Nov. 8 notified them their leases with the city will be terminated and that they must be gone by Nov. 30. Any property remaining after Nov. 30 will be deemed abandoned by the city.

Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore said the impetus for sending the letter was the safety hazard that the docks pose.

“There are serious liability issues down there,” Moore said. “The dock renters are being removed for a reason it has nothing to do with whether the marina is going to be built or not.”

He said that the safety of the docks, once he was made aware of it, was an issue that could not be ignored.

“All of those boat dock renters are welcome to come back if we build the marina,” Moore said.

But that was little consolation to Brian Gordon, who read a letter from several boat owners to the city council Monday night. Gordon and his wife Carolyn are long-time, year-round boat dock renters in Jeffersonville.

Gordon said the letter sent in November contradicts an assurance given earlier in the year, in September, that the boat owners would not have to move during the renovations.

“This leaves the year-round tenants in an impossible position,” Gordon said reading the letter. “Their winter preparations were based on belief, and truth and integrity of the city’s representations. Now, with roughly two weeks notice by the time the communication was received, they are required to move their vessels and homes and they have nowhere to go.”

He added that the docks that are in the marina are maintained by the boat owners and they are in the same condition they have been in all year.

“The water has not risen above the docks so as to change any dock conditions, since this year’s leases were entered,” Gordon said while reading the letter. “Thus, if deemed unsafe, they were in the same condition in the early spring when the city and marina entered contracts and took the tenants’ money.”

City Council members empathized with the boat owners that attended Monday’s meeting, but said there is little they can do to change the mayor’s decision.

“We can’t override this, it is totally out of our hands,” said Council President Connie Sellers.

Corporation Attorney Les Merkley said the lease clearly spells out that the city can terminate the leases with 20-days written notice, with or without cause.

City Council Attorney Scott Lewis agreed and said the only recourse the boat owner’s have is they can appeal to the Board of Public Works.

Gordon said he plans to attend the Board of Public Works meeting to request the city abide by its original agreement to let the boat renters to stay through March.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do to get out of here,” Gordon said. “It was all the stuff we were going to do over the winter, but then they said they were going to phase us into the work, so we trusted them and did nothing. We feel like were pawns in this game. This is going to completely change people’s lives,” Gordon said.

At the end of the meeting, City Councilman Nathan Samuel asked that an ordinance for the marina project be placed back on the agenda for the council’s Dec. 2 meeting now that the council has actual plans and a cost on which they can vote. The estimated cost for the project is $2.2 million. Council members were in agreement that they want to move forward with a marina plan and Samuel said he would vote for the plan, now that he seen the construction documents.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is collecting comments during a joint public comment on the marina plan until Dec. 2. It is expected to take about 30 to 45 days after the public comment period has closed before a permit could be issued.

The city council’s next meeting is also scheduled for Monday, Dec. 2.

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