Promise, the at-risk-for-derelict sailboat with no motor and no sails that sat in Gulfport's beach for a month before community-minded sailors pushed and pulled it out of the city's swimming area, will be gone for the city's harbor tomorrow, according to Gulfport city manager Jim O'Reilly.
Last month the boat's owner, Jay Burki, faced the city in court. Standing beside his attorney, Mr. Burki told Judge Patrick Caddell he would remove the boat from Gulfport's waters by August 16. He did not do so and, at the judge's insistence, the city and Mr. Burki again met in court Thursday morning (September 6), although Mr. Burki lacked an attorney at the hearing.
"His attorney has advised us that he has withdrawn because Mr. Burki was not following through," City manager Jim O'Reilly said "Mr. Burki told the judge he was in the process of selling the vessel, but when the judge asked who was purchasing it. Mr. Burki could not recall his name."
Promise ran aground in early July, during Tropical Storm Debby. Acting as the agent for Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Gulfport police cited the boat as being “at risk” for being designated a derelict vessel. Mr. Burki had until November 3 to bring the boat into compliance, but with this morning's hearing he has lost possession of the boat.
"The judge explained to Mr. Burki that he had a deal, and expressed disappointment that Mr. Burki failed to follow through" on moving his boat out of Gulfport waters, Mr. O'Reilly said. He then reinstated the city's 18 citations, totalling $1674, and allowed Gulfport to place a lien on the vessel. The city attorney will prepare a court order for the judge's signature. Once Judge Caddell signs it, which he told the city manager he would do "as soon as it hits his desk”, the city may take possession of Promise. Mr. Burki has 45 days to settle his debts with the city, but if he does not the city will start foreclosure proceedings on the boat. Also in 45 days the city, acting as the agent of the state, may officially declare the boat derelict.
"The vessel will be removed and brought to the marina," Mr. O'Reilly promised. He expects city attorney Andy Salzman to draft the court "now" and deliver it to the judge, which means the city can tow Promise to the municipal marina while Gulfport awaits payment of not only the citations, but towing fees upwards of $200 and $60 per day storage fee. Mr. O'Reilly says the city does not expect to collect court costs and attorney fees from Mr. Burki