BUFFALO, NY - So many people are ready for spring around here.
And, with the change of season - there will be a new operator at the Erie Basin Marina. This comes after the previous operator, Brand-On Services, was kicked out of the marina for allegedly not paying its bills.
The marina is frozen stiff now, but come springtime it will be under new leadership with a new operator for the slips and fuel operation.
"With one million people coming to Canalside and to the area, it is good for Buffalo, it is good for the taxpayers to have a legitimate vendor handling not only the restaurant, but also the marina and the slips," said Buffalo comptroller Mark Schroeder.
The vendor that's been chosen is Smith Boys, the marina and boat dealership based in North Tonawanda. The Common Council approved a five-year deal with the company -- with the possibility of a five-year extension. And this season, the company says rental fees won't rise.
There will also be a new operator of the Hatch Restaurant. Out of two choices, the city has selected Acqua, a restaurant on Niagara Street to run the Hatch.
"We've reviewed those proposals very strongly and picked a vendor that we issued at council today that we felt very comfortable with," said Steve Stepniak, the commissioner of the city's department of public works.
"What we're doing here is that we want to let boaters know that we really care about their business and we want them to have a good product for them for when the weather breaks," said Demone Smith, the council majority leader.
The company that is long gone from the marina is Brand-On Services. The comptroller's office audited the company last summer and found that the company had more than $340,000 in unpaid rent and missing gas. Schroeder says an additional review shows that Brand-On owes more than $500,000 in back rent.
"This would be all-inclusive to all of the under payments in the different categories, including the gas that we did identify," Schroeder said.
For months the city and Brand-On have been battling over whether the money is owed. Brand-On, through its attorney Mark Carney says that the company thought its agreement with the city was changed years ago -- which called for Brand-On to pay less than what it needed to in rent.
The city believes that the company violated this agreement by failing to pay the money.
This matter will head to arbitration, which is scheduled to take place in June in Buffalo. Common Council sent the Hatch contract to committee, for further review. This will likely be approved in the future. The city says that Smith Boys was the only company to bid on the slips. Boating season begins May 1.