Boat harbor bankruptcy filing puts eviction process on pause

City issues eviction papers to longtime La Crosse Municipal Boat Harbor owner

Boating season is nearing its end, but there are unresolved issues at local docks.

The city of La Crosse has issued eviction papers to longtime owner Steve Mills of the Municipal Boat Harbor, who has a history of lease violations. Court proceedings were stopped Friday when Mills filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

“The city filed an eviction because there were violations of the forbearance and lease agreement, and they still have not been cured as of today,” Phil Addis, an attorney representing the city, said.

The city said one violation is from a 2013 agreement requiring Mills to pay a non-resident surcharge.

“They’re alleging he’s not paying the proper fee for the dockage, which there’s a question of who’s a resident and non-resident. We think we’ll win on that,” Mills’ attorney, Galen W. Pittman, said. “The other thing is restoring his seller’s permit. He’s in the process of doing that.”

Addis said Mills owes the city over $10,000.

The Department of Natural Resources is also on board, claiming that the harbor violates environmental standards, including improper dock material.

The bankruptcy filing was intended to halt the eviction process, Addis said.

“It was an emergency plan filed at last notice, really to stop the eviction action from happening,” he said.

Addis said it’s not uncommon for individuals or businesses to file for Chapter 11, but prevents the city from moving forward.

Pittman said it gives Mills time to get in compliance with the lease.

“We will propose a plan where we cure and reinstate the lease so we’re in good standing on the lease and whatever other obligations he has. We’re going to pay them in full under a provision,” he said. “He wants to operate until the end of lease, when he’ll be in his 70s. And I said, ‘By that time, you’ll be ready to walk away from it,’ and he said ‘Yes.'”

Addis said bankruptcy proceedings will take at least a few months.

Pittman said that after the bankruptcy proceedings, the city and his client will either work things out or go to trial.