Dispute over damaged platform leads city of West Palm Beach to threaten boat show ouster

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Mayor Jeri Muoio threatened to cancel one of the city's premier events over $141,500 in damage the city says the boat show's production company caused at the waterfront during the 2010 Palm Beach International Boat Show.

Dane Graziano, chief operating officer of Show Management, denied that his company caused major cracks on a city platform at the waterfront. The city filed a lawsuit in August, and the matter is now in the hands of Show Management's insurance company. This year's boat show is scheduled for March 22-25.

At Tuesday's commission workshop, city officials said it is undeniable that the management company caused the damage when the fork lift it was using dropped beams at a waterfront stage, referred to as The Palm. City workers witnessed the damage, Parks and Recreation Director Christine Thrower said.

"The bottom line is, no one wants to cancel the boat show," Muoio said at the workshop. "It's something we enjoy here and it brings a lot to our downtown. However, we need these people to take responsibility for the damage they caused and if (cancelling the boat show) is the only leverage we have, we're going to use it."

City Attorney Claudia McKenna said the $141,500 repair cost factors in how much the city spent on the stage when it was built several years ago.

"That was during a time when construction costs were much higher than today," McKenna said. "If (Show Management) will come in and fix The Palm and you can do it for less than $141,000, we are happy for that to happen."

McKenna said The Palm doesn't need to be repaired until the city's Fourth on Flagler event in July but the city "needs to know we have money in the bank to fix it."

"We think we've made a very reasonable solution, to let the boat show go forward and still protect the city," McKenna said.

The mayor and commissioners would not let Show Management officials speak at the workshop, advising McKenna to continue negotiations.

Show Management is a client of Commissioner Bill Moss' advertising agency. Moss did not participate in discussions Tuesday.

"We don't feel we've done any damage," Graziano said after the meeting. "We've been here 20 years and we've always done everything properly."

Mike Antheil, executive director of the non-profit Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County which oversees the boat show, said he believes the two sides will work out an agreement in time for the event. He also pointed to the $1 million the boat show contributed toward the downtown docks, which haven't been the popular draw the city hoped when it spent $30 million redesigning the waterfront.

"The boat show fills 3,000 rooms and brings an almost incalculable amount of local economic impact. It fills every restaurant on Clematis Street," Antheil said. "It's impossible that the boat show won't go on."

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