published Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Casey barge may be dismantled on the river

  • photo
    A former restaurant barge, purchased by Allen Casey and docked at his property on the North Shore of the Tennessee River for several years, is seen from the Olgiati Bridge.
    Photo by John Rawlston.
    enlarge photo

The controversial barge moored on Chattanooga’s downtown waterfront may be dismantled where it sits if a plan is approved by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge next month.

A hearing is set for Aug. 7 in Chattanooga to hear the proposal, which would permit a prospective buyer to begin salvage operations on the barge that was that brought to the riverfront years ago by Chattanooga businessman Allen Casey.

Gary Patrick, an attorney for a group of former Casey investors who are suing the businessman, said permission will be sought from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to disassemble the barge at the site across from Ross’s Landing where it’s moored.

He said that RCW Inc., which submitted a lone $50,000 bid to buy the dilapidated barge, had planned to move the barge. But, Patrick said, the company’s plans have changed and now it is seeking the OK from the Corps to begin salvage operations where the barge sits.

“Buyer will actively seek approval from and will cooperate with the Corps in order to obtain approval as quickly as possible,” court papers said.

The barge’s future wound up in bankruptcy court after Casey and one his companies, River City Resort Inc., ran out of money to refurbish the barge into a floating restaurant. They had faced a civil trial in Hamilton County Chancery Court over a lawsuit brought by the investors, who claimed they were defrauded relating to a portion of an 11-acre tract adjacent to the barge. Casey has denied the allegations.

According to the proposed new plan, RCW Inc. will salvage and sell all saleable materials from the barge and pay the bankruptcy estate the first $50,000, excluding $10,000 of its own disposal costs. The plan said the company will receive the next $50,000 from the sale of the salvaged material. After $100,000 has been received from the sale of the materials, the buyer and the bankruptcy estate will equally split all additional proceeds, court papers said.

Bill Peoples, a Corps spokesman, said plans are to work with the new owner.

“After Bankruptcy Court proceedings are complete and a new owner is named, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will work with the new owner to coordinate barge removal procedures,” he said in a statement.

The barge, which Casey had hoped to turn into a floating restaurant and bar, has long drawn the fire of city leaders for its rundown condition.

In March, the Corps ordered the vessel be removed from its mooring on the Tennessee River, saying it had violated its permit.

Casey had the barge floated to Chattanooga from Pittsburgh in 2009, but nothing was built on it.

The Chattanooga businessman, who developed the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel and resort more than four decades ago, had plans to put condominiums and a hotel on the land. Much of the property is up for sale.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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