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Barge at city park springs a 2nd leak

Aug. 24, 2013 @ 11:30 PM

HUNTINGTON -- A vacant barge and floating restaurant at the Harris Riverfront Park marina has sprung another leak, prompting Mayor Steve Williams to seek a private contractor that will try and keep it afloat until the city can remove it from the water.

Williams will ask Huntington City Council during its meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 26, at City Hall to approve an emergency resolution that authorizes the mayor to hire a contractor to monitor and pump water out of the city-owned barge for the next 30 days for $21,600.

Williams said his goal by then is to have negotiated a buyout of the remaining two years of the lease that the city has with Huntington Yacht Club owner David Duffield. The city will then take immediate action to remove the barge from the marina, Williams said.

City employees have been pumping water out of the barge around the clock since May 9. The leaks were initially contained to the east end of the barge, which is about as long as a football field. However, city employees found another leak on the western end of the barge last Tuesday, Williams said.

"This has become a serious health and safety hazard, and it's in the city's best interests to hire an outside contractor," Williams told council members during a work session Thursday. "I don't ever want to place our employees in harm's way. I couldn't look at myself in the mirror or at you in the eyes if something ever happened to them on that barge."

Lease negotiations with Duffield remain ongoing, but Williams did not indicate whether there has been progress in the talks. He told council members that he would prefer not to discuss the negotiations in public. Duffield did not return calls seeking comment Friday.

Because of a stipulation in the lease, the city has not received any rental payments from the Huntington Yacht Club since 2003. The city is supposed to receive 20 percent of the dock rental fees or $3,000 per year, whichever is greater. However, the lease states the city is responsible for repairs below the water line at the marina and can waive rental payments if the Huntington Yacht Club pays for the repairs.

During the past nine years, the city's insurance company has paid out $396,000 because of four claims initiated by the Huntington Yacht Club. One of the claims came after an electrical fire in 2004, while three others were related to floating objects damaging the docks.

Williams indicated that in addition to the $53,000 that the city has paid in city employees' salaries and equipment to keep the barge afloat since early May, there likely will be additional expenses attached to the lease buyout and removing the barge from the water. The city recently received an estimate of $36,400 from McGinnis, Inc. to disconnect the barge from its mooring and float it downstream to the company's facility in South Point.

Some of the expenses could be recovered from selling the scrap metal from the barge. Williams indicated that is part of the lease negotiations with Duffield.

Repairing the barge and restoring it to use at the marina has been ruled out, Williams said. The estimate from McGinnis, Inc. to fix it is more than $350,000, and that amount was passed on to the city before the leak on the west end of the barge was discovered last week.

If the city can gain full control of the marina and barge, Williams said he would like to solicit redevelopment plans for that area of the riverfront. Those plans may or may not include a marina, he added.

"We can't afford to fix it," Williams said. "The city has put Band-Aids on the problem over the years and it's gone beyond the need for a Band-Aid now. It needs major surgery."

Follow H-D reporter Bryan Chambers on Facebook or Twitter @BryanChambersHD.



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