Many boat owners were frustrated with the seemingly sudden notice when they received an eviction letter last Thursday. Those in the harbor received another email on Tuesday notifying them that utilities would be shut off.
Michael Berger has lived on a houseboat in the La Crosse Municipal Boat Harbor since 2008. A retired veteran, he never planned on moving until he received the eviction notice.
"I'm paid for this winter. I'm also paid for next summer here," Berger said. "I now have to go to another marina, and it will cost me $2,500 just to winter at that place."
Rupel Lewandowski Holdings bought the harbor's assets in bankruptcy court in October. They quickly issued the eviction notice to boat owners after the City Attorney gave them 30 days to clear the docks from the harbor.
"When you get evicted, you've done something wrong," Berger said. "You didn't pay your bills. You're selling drugs.There's something that causes the eviction. Nobody in this harbor did anything to create an eviction."
"It's a less than ideal situation how this all came to be," said Jay Odegaard, Parks, Recreation & Forestry Superintendent for the City of La Crosse. "Obviously, the individuals down there have a lot of passion for that area."
Only a fraction of the boats in the harbor at the time of the notice are still docked there.
"I'm very happy that they're taking the necessary steps to help us," Odegaard said. "We're really dedicating our time and resources into making this as positive as possible."
Just days after the eviction letter, Berger and others who called Dock One home got an email saying power and other utilities would soon be shut off.
"We got the email that also said the water's been shut off," Berger said. "We usually get a day or two warning that water's going to be shut off so all of us liveaboards can make sure we're filled up with water and everything. We all understand that, but no. They just shut it off."
As crews work to meet the 30 day deadline, many harbor residents have more questions than answers.
"It is making people, maybe not homeless, but under a great deal of duress," said Berger. "Where am I going to take my boat? What am I going to do?"
Houseboat owners have relocated to Docks Four and Five where there is still power for the time being. The crew from Rupel Lewandowski Holdings did bring in a barge and tow boat on Tuesday to move boats left behind.
Berger says the situation is breaking apart a neighborhood, an important part of the city whether it is on land or in the water.