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Boaters say Norwich marina told them not to return

Norwich — A couple that has had a slip at the Marina at American Wharf for 10 years told the City Council on Tuesday they were told they could not return to the marina this year, because they made comments to the news media regarding deteriorating conditions there.

Tammy and George Casale of Marlborough were among several boaters who spoke to The Day earlier this month regarding the uncertainty of the upcoming boating season after they had not received contracts by the usual early December timeframe. They said the marina needs painting, cleaning and upkeep, and the on-site restaurant needs to reopen.

Contracts were sent out last week to some boaters, but the Casales said they were told they are not invited back.

The Casales said Marina Manager Donald Wallace informed them they were not invited back because “you were unhappy here and you were going to the media,” George Casale said.

George Casale told the City Council that he called a representative of marina owner Joyal Capital Management and was told the same thing. He said the Joyal representative cited the “negative publicity” in the paper. Casale said he told the representative it was a matter of freedom of speech, and they wanted to come back to Norwich.

The Casales said they rented a slip last weekend at a Mystic marina.

“So, you’re losing another boater at American Wharf, along with others, because of the state of the marina,” George Casale said to the City Council. “It’s in your hands, guys.”

Tammy Casale said earlier Tuesday that Wallace had threatened to kick the couple out last summer when they complained to the City Council about the condition of the marina and lack of upkeep there. But she said the decision to renew a slip rental should be up to them as customers.

Tammy Casale told the City Council her efforts were to draw the city’s attention to the problems in an attempt to get the marina owners to clean the bathrooms, docks and pool area, paint the buildings and reopen the restaurant.

“Everything we have said is not anything everyone doesn’t already know, that it is in disarray,” Tammy Casale said. “We just want somebody to buy it and restore it.”

Joyal is trying to sell the marina, which sits on city-owned land with a 99-year lease. The City Council would have to approve any proposed lease transfer but based only on a review of the potential buyer’s financial wherewithal to run the marina, city officials said.

Michael Aliano, son of the late marina founder Ronald Aliano and a boater, said the negative publicity about the marina has not helped in the effort to sell the property. Aliano said he has spoken to prospective marina buyers and said the negative press and the “negativity” regarding it has hindered the sale.

Let’s put a positive spin on this,” Aliano said. “It was once rated a world-class marina. It’s still an amazing facility. It’s nicer than 99% of the marinas in Rhode Island and Connecticut currently."

Boaters have been complaining about the declining conditions at the marina, including failure to replace fuel tanks removed two years ago after they reached their 30-year lifespan. The marina restaurant never opened in 2019 and the festival tent was removed. Boaters said bathrooms were not cleaned and the pool area was closed for part of last season.

Reached Tuesday morning, Wallace confirmed that contracts to boaters were sent out last week for the boating season that opens April 15. Asked about the Casales not being allowed to return, Wallace said: “I don’t know anything about that, to my knowledge, unless they were told different by corporate.”

Tammy Casale said friends have told her that Wallace also told them the Casales would not be invited back to the Norwich marina. She said after learning she wouldn’t be allowed to return, she spent the day in emotional phone calls with fellow boaters on A Dock, whom she called her summer family. The Casales said they spent last weekend shopping for a new 2020 marina location.

Casale said she and her husband “did more than anyone else” to try to keep the marina clean, including hosing bird droppings off the dock, cleaning the bathrooms and even donating furniture to the pool area.

“If I didn’t follow the rules, didn’t pay a bill, I could see that,” Tammy Casale said. “We never broke the rules ever and never didn’t pay. We always paid in full in January. I kept our dock as clean as I could. I kept the bathrooms clean.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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