Old Mill Marina’s receiver has reassured customers after controversy arose over people having to pay twice for spring boat launches due to changing ownership.

More than 200 people attended an online town hall April 27 hosted by receiver MNP Ltd. The organization, which became a court-appointed receiver March 9, had told customers it would have to charge a fee for launches, even where people prepaid. MNP said that money was not segregated or retained by prior owners, meaning it had to charge to cover costs.

MNP senior vice-president Jerry Henechowicz explained how his company was appointed to manage and sell the property, given the marina’s financial difficulties and previous owners’ desire to step away.

“We need to spend time and effort and expense,” Henechowicz said, adding customers who prepaid now have unsecured claims against the marina. “I empathize with you and I really feel bad about the fact that you’re going to have to pay twice.”

He added credit card companies could help retrieve the payments and there is a chance for customers to have their claims addressed if the marina sells for enough money.

The costs for spring launches range from $75 if a boat is already on a trailer, to $175 for two-stroke boats to a high of $429 for towboats.

Kawagama Lake Association president Kathleen Hedley said they have heard from many members about the issue. But the association has opted not to wade in, due to legal ramifications and the inequity it sees in doing customer advocacy for only one of the lake’s marinas.

“We understand our members’ frustration and we hope they’re able to resolve this in a manner that’s acceptable to all,” Hedley said.

Henechowicz said they would address customers’ concerns with the proposed slip rental agreement. For example, the agreement initially proposed boat owners would hold the receiver harmless for any losses or damages, but Henechowicz said that would be changed to exclude cases of gross negligence on their part.

He also said prospective business buyers would have to honour agreements between boat owners and MNP for this season ahead.

“Everything we do is ultimately going to get approved by the court,” Henechowicz said. “We’re not going to play any bait and switch games. That’s not who we are.”

Tony Wing is a boat owner who prepaid for spring launch and expressed concern about having to pay again, as well as with the slip agreement. But after the town hall, he said he felt better about the intentions of the receivers.

“They seem to be willing to amend the agreement and work with the boat owners,” Wing said. “It is a huge step forward.”

Wing added he is supportive of a cottager co-op purchasing the marina, an idea raised during the town hall.

Regardless, Wing said it is important the receivership keep customers happy.

“If you’re going to sell a business, you want it to be prospering with a lot of happy clients.”

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