PORT CLINTON - A judge yesterday ordered a Put-in-Bay marina to provide dock space this summer to Island Express Boat Lines, clearing the way for the Sandusky ferry line to resume service.
In a decision issued in Ottawa County Common Pleas Court, Judge Paul Moon granted an injunction that gives Island Express the right to use space at Ladd's Marina through Oct. 31.
“That's great news,” Bill Annand, general manager of Island Express, said when told of the ruling. “I've got a few employees that are standing around here waiting for that word, because without that, we may be looking for other things to do.”
The marina had terminated an agreement to lease the space to the ferry line June 1, leaving its Island Rocket ferries with no place to dock on South Bass Island, a popular summertime tourist spot. Island Express filed suit, claiming it had a binding five-year lease with Ladd's.
Last year, the boat line used the Ladd's dock for ferries originating in Port Clinton and Sandusky, paying $28,000 in rent. Judge Moon's decision calls for Island Express to pay rent of $30,000 and post a bond for that amount with his court.
Mr. Annand said the ferry line's boats could be operating on Lake Erie within a day or two.
“With this worked out, I'm sure,” he said. “I don't see why we couldn't resume the service this weekend.”
Shawn Ladd, general manager of the marina, declined comment.
In his ruling, Judge Moon noted that Island Express had used Ladd's dock space since 1998, first under a written lease, and then from 2000 to 2002 under a verbal agreement.
In March, 2002, Ladd's prepared a five-year lease and sent it to Island Express, which signed the agreement. Ladd's never signed it, but the parties operated under terms of the lease last year.
In his decision, Judge Moon said the lease, though unsigned, was enforceable.
“Granting the injunction for the balance of the 2003 tourist season, subject to the terms of the lease, makes eminent good sense,” he wrote. “In addition, to deny the injunction would, the court believes, result in the catastrophic implosion or bankruptcy of Island Express.”
Mr. Annand said his company hopes to be able to settle its differences with the marina.
“It was an amiable relationship,” he said. “We were just partners trying to work through some of the operational issues we had. We never had any difficulties we thought we couldn't overcome.”
The boat line, which also runs ferries between Sandusky and Kelleys Island, had said it might have to cease operations unless it quickly obtained dock space at Put-in-Bay. This week, Put-in-Bay Village Council rejected a request to lease municipal dock space to Island Express.