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The towboat Claude R shoves the Casey barge downstream past the Chattanooga riverfront last spring when it was removed from its longtime mooring.

The trustee in Chattanooga businessman Allen Casey's bankruptcy case said there's a letter of intent offering nearly $6 million to buy a 6.6-acre tract of downtown Chattanooga waterfront land.

"I've got several interested parties," said attorney Jerrold Farinash about the tract off Manufacturers Road and across the river from Ross's Landing.

He said the parties, including people who live outside and inside the city, are interested in commercial, residential and retail development. But Farinash said because of the complexity of the bankruptcy case and the logistics of a sale, it could be this fall before a deal is nailed down.

Casey, who developed the Chattanooga Choo Choo more than four decades ago, envisioned condominiums and a hotel on the property, but nothing was ever built. He also brought a barge to Chattanooga in 2009 and moored it next to the property as a potential restaurant, though it became an eyesore.

Farinash said in U.S. Bankruptcy Court papers that he wants to increase by $100,000 a $350,000 bank loan taken to handle disposal of the rundown barge about a year ago.

The new money would be used to help pay fees, insurance and other miscellaneous costs, he said. That would include $50,000 for his legal fees and about $7,500 in expenses, court papers said.

The papers said the cost to raise and remove the barge was $322,000. That included payment to Gulfstream Enterprises, the Biloxi, Miss., company that towed the barge away. Included in the barge costs were payments to others businesses that helped raise the barge after it sank twice before it was removed, Farinash said.

William Ladnier of Gulf- stream said this week the barge has been disassembled and is in storage. He's waiting for the right time to sell it for scrap metal, he said, though there's still an option to sink it and make it a reef in the Gulf of Mexico.

Ladnier said he and his daughter came through Chattanooga earlier this week and visited the site where the barge had been moored.

"I felt good about what we accomplished," he said.

Washington help for barge removal

Court documents recounting the days before the barge was removed by Gulfstream show that U.S. Sen. Bob Corker's help was requested and received.

Gulfstream had contracted with a tug company to move the barge to Mississippi, and that business bought a tug, the court filing said.

But the tug needed a certificate of documentation from the U.S. Coast Guard. Customarily, the new tug owner will operate under the COD of the former owner until a new one is issued.

"For reasons known only to the United States Coast Guard, it revoked the COD.When contacted, the USCG admitted it had erroneously revoked the COD but, when asked to reinstate the COD of the previous owner, the USCG said no without providing any explanation," the papers said.

The new owner began the process of applying for a COD and sent an application and fee to the National Maritime Documentation Center by fax. But NMDC denied its receipt, court papers said. The tug owner tried again on April 29, 2015, but the NMDC was closed on Thursdays.

The tug operator decided April 29 was his last day in Chattanooga if there was a "no go," according to the filing.

With assistance from Chattanooga law firm Patrick, Beard, Schulman and Jacoway, representing former investors suing Casey, Corker was contacted and able to get the Coast Guard to send someone to NMDC and confirm receipt for the COD, court papers said.

Still, the Coast Guard wouldn't let the tug leave with the barge until an inspection from Nashville, even though it has a facility in Chattanooga, the papers said. After a positive inspection, the tug still was not permitted to go until approval was "called in," the filing said.

"The time was 5:15 [p.m.] and the tug operator was telling his folks to prepare to cut the barge loose from the tug, he was leaving," the papers said. At about 5:30 p.m., the Coast Guard gave its OK.

"The tug was already under power and the process of cutting the barge from its moorings began," the papers said. "I [Farinash] and the inspector literally jumped from the barge to the shore as it was beginning to get underway. The bill of sale to Gulfstream was signed standing on the shore as the barge's moorings were removed."

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

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