The docks and buildings at the Isle la Plume marina have new owners as of Monday.

Chris Rupel and Rick Lewandowski purchased the assets of La Crosse Municipal Harbor Inc. through the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, taking possession of the infrastructure associated with the company that formerly operated the city-owned marina.

The partnership put a down payment of $4,800 down Oct. 19, according to court documents, and were required to pay $42,700 by the end of October to complete the purchase. The property was auctioned off by the court after La Crosse Municipal Harbor Inc. owner Steve Mills declared bankruptcy last year. Mills ran the marina for almost 40 years before the city moved to evict him last year, accusing Mills of defaulting on the terms of his lease by failing to make corrections to the docks as required by the DNR, including replacing Styrofoam floats with approved materials.

“We did finalize the purchase as of yesterday,” Rupel said in an interview Tuesday.

Rupel and Lewandowski submitted a proposal to the city of La Crosse to operate the marina; however, that was turned down, Rupel said.

“We’re trying to work out an agreement with the city,” he said.

La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat said the city is in talks with the partnership but has no agreement to bring before the La Crosse Common Council for approval as yet.

“It’s a little unique because the city owns the land where these buildings sit, and there’s no agreements between this partnership and the city,” Kabat said.

The docks and buildings remain at the marina site, located at 1500 Joseph Houska Drive.

“We’re still under the impression or the goal moving forward that all of that has to be removed so that we can move forward and install new docks and have that in place,” Kabat said.

The city has applied for a permit from the DNR to install new docks, and the La Crosse Common Council approved spending $1.8 million on the project in October.

“I think a big part of that is that we’re trying to simplify, in essence, what’s going on, and because of the need to remove and replace all of the docks and all the facilities, I think the way forward to get it done is for the city to do that,” Kabat said.

However, although the city plans to take charge this year to bring the facility up to snuff, it has yet to decide long-term plans for the operation of the marina.

“That’s not to say that a year from now or sometime in the not-too-distant future we couldn’t enter some sort of agreement,” Kabat said.


Jourdan Vian is a reporter and columnist covering local government and city issues for the La Crosse Tribune. You can contact her at 608-791-8218.

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