Official wants problems with Cleveland Coast Guard station resolved

CLEVELAND (AP) - Coast Guard Rear Adm. Robert Papp looks out the window of his 20th-floor office in downtown Cleveland and sees one of his biggest headaches.

"One of the worst stations is right under my nose," Papp said.

Papp is in charge of 46 Coast Guard stations that provide security and assistance on the Great Lakes. None is quite like the one that's right before his eyes.

In March, a sewer line backed up and contaminated the station's prefabricated headquarters on Lake Erie. Eight crew members were forced to move to a nearby Holiday Inn, costing $10,000 in hotel bills so far.

When a distress call comes in at night, crews have to knock on hotel doors to get everyone up, then get into a government-issued pickup truck for the quarter-mile trip to a pier.

Petty Officer Timothy Kelley said it takes crews 10 to 15 minutes to get from the hotel to the pier. Papp said the delays "are not unacceptable," but he wants to resolve the station's future.

The biggest problem: There's no agreement on what to do about the station.

Plans to invest $6.3 million in a new Coast Guard station were shelved by former Mayor Michael White and current Mayor Jane Campbell. They preferred moving the station from its current location, opening up the prime land for lakefront development.

The Coast Guard, Naval Reserves and Army Corps of Engineers have offices on a tract of land located across the street from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Chris Ronayne, the mayor's chief of staff, said the cluster of federal offices amounts to a "fortress" that should be moved to open up the area for entertainment and public access. He said the Coast Guard hasn't joined the city in lobbying for federal money for the move.

Papp said it "doesn't make sense" to spend $10 million to move the facilities a few hundred yards. He also said federal money isn't readily available for such projects.

The Coast Guard prefers to invest $700,000 in the station, which could open in the spring. He wants questions about the station's future resolved soon.

"The constant threat of moving the Coast Guard ... needs to go away so I can properly take care of my people," he said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)