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No smooth sailing for Orleck: Ship may be sold to salvage yard due to financial difficulties

Last Modified: Tuesday, October 25, 2016 9:28 AM

By Emily Fontenot / American Press

The USS Orleck needs a home, and fast.

The retired destroyer has been docked at a temporary location on Enterprise Boulevard while its supporters try to secure a suitable home. Its location off the beaten path doesn’t encourage enough foot traffic to sustain the ship financially, so finding another location in the public eye is a must, said USS Orleck Naval Museum Board President Mark Boudreaux.

But Boudreaux said time is running out. The board has about three more weeks to decide whether to sell the ship to a salvage yard in order to take advantage of an offer that’s temporarily on the table, he said. He said taking the offer would enable the museum to pay off debt and would ensure at least partial preservation.

“We would come out okay financially as an organization, but that’s not our long-term goal,” Orleck Executive Director Ron Williams said.

The real goal has always been finding a permanent home on the lakefront, Williams said. He said the board had entertained hopes of docking at Isle of Capri Casino Hotel Lake Charles — the only place on the lakefront that doesn’t require continual dredging and could easily accommodate the Orleck. After the Isle failed to relocate the ship there, board members found renewed hope in a Texas development team led by David Farrell.

Farrell approached the board two and half years ago about his intent to purchase the Isle property and dock the Orleck there when he did, Williams said. He said Farrell kept in contact with the Orleck team while negotiating a purchase deal with the Isle. Farrell made elaborate plans for a lakeside museum and secured the necessary financial backing during that time, Williams said.

But when Isle of Capri announced in August its agreement to sell the property to a New Mexico corporation instead of Farrell, the board had to return to square one. Williams then contacted the New Mexico corporation — a subsidiary of the Laguna Development Corporation owned by the Pueblo of Laguna — about the ship’s need for a home.

After weeks of discussion, Laguna sent the Orleck team a letter declining the opportunity to relocate the ship at the Isle property. In the letter, Laguna said it would be inappropriate to make commitments until the Louisiana Gaming Control Board approved its license.

Laguna spokesman Skip Sayre said Laguna shouldn’t be held responsible for the future of the Orleck, especially since its own future is still up in the air.

“It would be inaccurate to characterize LDC as bearing any responsibility toward determining or directing the current or future plans of the USS Orleck,” Sayre said. He added that LDC looks forward to supporting “various social, educational and charitable endeavors of importance to the citizens of Calcasieu Parish” once fully licensed as a gaming facility.

Williams said the Orleck board doesn’t have time to wait for Laguna to get licensed, which could take months, because the current deal is only on the table for a matter of weeks. If the Orleck board doesn’t accept the deal and sells it to a salvage yard later, the future buyer would pay significantly less and not ensure the ship’s preservation, he said.

The state gaming board is now reviewing Laguna’s finances and ethical suitability. Meanwhile, David Farrell is still pursuing the property. The day Isle of Capri announced the deal with Laguna, Farrell offered to buy the property for $140 million, which is $5 million more than Laguna’s offer. He said that if the purchase with Laguna does not go through and he is allowed to buy the property, he will dock the Orleck at the property as he promised.

Boudreaux said the board will make a decision in the next three weeks whether to take the offer now or to hold out hope that either Farrell or Laguna will eventually be able to get them a dockside spot on the lakefront, and risk it falling flat again.

Posted By: Gerald Cuvillier On: 10/25/2016

Title: Mr.

Rename it the Oreck and sell it as the world's largest vacuum cleaner.

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