Action Report: Marinas owners' prayers answered

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by Bill Capo / Action Reporter

wwltv.com

Posted on February 23, 2011 at 7:04 PM

Sweetwater Marina was busy, boats in the launch and parking lot, the rooms rented. For the first time in months, there are smiles here.

"I am smiling," said Sweetwater Marina Owner Cindy Berry. "I am smiling. I feel like I've been holding my breath since December."

The marina opened last April, only to see business choked off when the oil spill affected fishing. So Sweetwater owners Cindy Berry and Captain Jack Payne couldn't believe it when Ken Feinberg's Gulf Coast Claims Facility turned them down in December.

"I screamed, I said, 'Denied?'" Berry said then.

By mid-January, they were out of money, borrowing from family, and yet Feinberg's group told them to start a new application process and wait 30 to 90 days.

"There's no way I'll make it 30 to 90 days," worried Sweetwater Marina Payne at the time. "There's no possible way."

"I thought it was a very, very sad situation, because if anybody should get this money, that they should be some of the people that should get it," said Kenner Fisherman Oscar Georgy.

Then the worst happened. The engine on Captain Jack's boat failed, meaning he could not take customers on fishing trips.

"That was it," said Berry. "That's the, you know the bread and butter, you know for the charter fishing. That's why people come here."

All these months, Berry and Payne just through they were desperate, but the boat breaking brought a new dimension to it. At the same time they were hearing from Feinberg's people that their claim, once denied, was now being processed. But no money was forthcoming.

So when they contacted me, I got in touch with Feinberg's associates and asked them could they possibly provide something on an interim basis, and that's exactly what they did.

"I just fell to my knees and started crying, I really did," said Berry. "Then I walked out on the balcony, and I said they released some money."

"I like to cry," said Sweetwater employee Frank Roberts. "We were ecstatic. We were happy as kids in a candy store."

They paid the past-due bills, and for the first time there is optimism the marina will survive until the new fishing season kicks into high gear.

But Feinberg's group sent a partial payment, and they hope the rest comes soon, because the new bills arrive March 1.

"And give us the rest and make us whole, so that we can start making our own money, and we won't need any of BP's," said Berry.

 

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