Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Help Me Howard: Sinking Boat
Have you ever heard of someone with a sinking feeling? Well one South Florida woman knows how that feels every time she looks out her backyard. It's a boat that is going down. A boat she does not own but is now her headache. Is that legal? It's why she called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- For 40 years, Norma Petrone has loved living on the water, looking at the boats, relaxing by the canal, till her dock turned into a dump.
Norma Petrone: "It looks horrible, and it's getting worse every day."
A few years ago, her husband rented out dock space to a fellow to put his 65-foot boat. But a year and a half ago, the boat owner stopped coming by, and it started deteriorating.
Melanie Smith, Norma Petrone's daughter: "It's horrendous. It's awful."
Awful is right. The paint is peeling, barnacles growing as the boat slowly sinks.
Melanie Smith: "My mom has had to rent bilge pumps from a place down the street at $100 a day to try and keep the boat floating."
At one point, oil started leaking from the boat. The state had to pay to clean it up. Then, Pompano Beach ordered Norma to move it.
Melanie Smith: "Either that or the city wanting to fine my mom $1,000 a day for the boat being left here."
The constant barrage of complaints from the government took its toll on Mr. Petrone.
Melanie Smith: "My dad, I know, was stressed over the whole thing, and I'm sure it didn't help his heart condition, and he passed away in January this year."
Now the boat is Norma and Melanie's problem.
Melanie Smith: "It's just not fair that Miles is not being pursued, and my mother, who is the easy target, is being pursued."
"Miles" is Miles Panaro, the man who put the boat here.
When the city of Pompano Beach couldn't find him, a judge issued this warrant for his arrest, and the city ordered Norma to show up in court.
Melanie Smith: "I guess to resolve getting the boat removed from the property."
There is one little bit of good news: Panaro never registered the boat in his name. The city believes, since it's in no one's name, anyone could salvage it. But Melanie can't find anyone to take it. So as a last resort, they called Help Me Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "This is unfortunate for Norma and her daughter and for the government agencies that have a problem they did not create, but they have to correct. We all know the boat owner is to blame, but the law holds the property owner responsible, because that is the best way to insure that the boat is removed."
After we interviewed the Petrones, they headed to court.
Judge: "City of Pompano Beach versus Norma Petrone."
The city attorney told the judge, they've gone after the boat owner.
Mark Burman: "In this case, the person who owned the vessel abandoned it and left it at the Petrone residence. The city has prosecuted him as well. There's currently a warrant out for his arrest."
The city says they aren't trying to punish Norma. They just want the boat moved.
Mark Burman: "We're not looking for money or other punishment, but again, we have no recourse at this point but to file this action, appear before the court and use the power of any sanctions we might have to get it removed."
But the court discovered what Norma has discovered: it's not that easy to get someone to haul a 65-foot boat away for free.
Judge: "What we're going to do in this case is reset the arraignment in 30 days."
Norma has no idea what she will do and just hopes someone wants to take a 65-foot boat off an 81-year-old woman's hands.
Norma Petrone: "I would like somebody to come and take it away and get rid of the headache."
Patrick Fraser: "Pompano Beach is trying to help Norma. They have given her another 30 days to get the boat removed. We have spoken to several companies to see if they want to salvage the boat and keep it. So far, no luck. If you know of anyone who might like a rundown 65-footer, give us a call. Norma would appreciate it."
A boatload of problems left you a wreck? Don't get that sinking feeling. Sail over to us. We will try to salvage the situation.