Orleck supporters still trying to reach agreement with City Council

By Lee Peck - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - They're a determined bunch. Like they've done so many times before the supporters of the U.S.S. Orleck packed the Lake Charles City Council Chambers. The Navy destroyer they love so much was set to be moved from Orange, Texas this upcoming weekend but due to problems with the donated tow - the move has been delayed.

"So there are a few final details. It just gives us time to ironically work out a few details and go over and double check the ship. And have the Coast Guard check the ship, but it's scheduled to move on the following weekend," said Major Ron Williams, Vice Chairman of the Board of the Orleck.

The move won't happen if the City and supporters of the Orleck can't reach an agreement. One of the major stipulations for the city to agree for the ship to be moved to a temporary site at the end of Enterprise Boulevard was that the Orleck have insurance to cover possible damage. That hasn't happened yet.

"I'm not your enemy and if I sound cynical when I say I'm sorry I can't make a hand shake on a promise," said Councilwoman Luvertha August.

Residents living on nearby River Road still have concerns as well.

"In the last five years we've had two hurricanes - 10 foot surges of water, I know because I live over there and it was underneath my house. I don't want to see the boat come cracking loose and wiping out half of the peoples houses that live down there," said Stanley Caldarera.

While the Orleck holds an emotional place in the hearts of the veterans that want to see the floating museum dock in Lake Charles, for the council it's a decision that must be based on facts. Councilman Marshall Simien reminds the audience of what happened two years ago near the same site when a barge full of scrap metal sank.

"It was a mess. They had to bring all kinds of heavy equipment in there to clean it up," explained Simien. "You are proposing putting a 300 plus foot warship out their - that's not navigable. If it breaks from its moorings there's no way to stop this thing and people have homes people have children, you have environmental, ecological concerns."

At this time the Orleck has a small window of opportunity to be towed for free from Texas - a job that supporters say would easily cost upwards of 300-thousand dollars.

"The city has to be cautious into getting into our business operations in a way that could prejudice it and cause it to fail by placing too many limitations on us. And I know there is a compromise and I think we are reaching it. We are getting there," said Williams.

No action was taken at Wednesday's meeting. And as of now, the Orleck is still scheduled to be towed a week from this Saturday. However a special meeting to iron out the details has been scheduled next Wednesday at six o'clock in Lake Charles City Council Chambers.

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