Port Royal officials cool on seafood processing proposal; want assurances

emoody@beaufortgazette.comJune 5, 2013 

  • In other business, council:

  • discussed fire, street and sanitation budgets for fiscal year 2014, including the potential contracting of trash services.

  • discussed the progress made on revising the proposed form-based code.

  • discussed plans for July 4 in the wake of an announcement by Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island that it would not have its annual celebration.

  • discussed the penny-sales tax being examined by Beaufort County.

  • heard presentations from Hargray and the Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority.

  • discussed awarding a contract for the renovation and expansion of the Port Royal Police Station.

Port Royal Town Council isn't pulling the plug on a proposal to operate a seafood and jellyfish operation at the town's shrimp docks, but it won't go further until it receives assurances the town will be protected if the deal sinks.

Steven Giese Sr., the businessman behind the plan, spoke publicly at a council work session Wednesday night for the first time since town officials learned last week of his previous business failings.

"Yes, I've had some failures in life," Giese said. "I've also had some terrific successes. I'm a dreamer. I think big. I look for big opportunities. Sometimes I have to be reined in, but I really believe that I can still be successful for the town of Port Royal, for the county of Beaufort, despite the obstacles that have been placed before me."

Giese apologized for any embarrassment the information caused the town, and said the negative publicity has created some "obstacles" with financial backers and shrimp buyers.

Giese went through the history of his previous business -- Today's Fresh Catch Inc. -- which filed for bankruptcy in 2007. He said that was due to a combination of failed research efforts, a poor shrimp crop caused by Hurricane Alberto and personal problems that distracted him.

He then explained the bankruptcy his son -- Steven Giese II -- filed two weeks ago in connection with Live Seafood Brokers Inc., for which the senior Giese acted as an adviser. He contends his son was swindled by a Florida business and shrimpers there. Giese Sr. has said his son would be a part of the Port Royal operation.

Council listened for more than 30 minutes. Only Giese spoke, although his son attended the meeting.

"I'm sorry about your previous business concerns and your son, but I guess I'm more concerned about the business here in Port Royal," Mayor Sam Murray said when Giese invited questions.

Murray asked about a list of seven items the town requested from Giese, including lists of permits and equipment and construction plans

The most important items, town manager Van Willis said, are the final three -- proof of insurance, proof of a surety or performance bond that would pay the town if the company doesn't meet its obligations , and an indemnity agreement that would hold the town and the S.C. State Ports Authority blameless if the venture failed. The town leases the docks from the Ports Authority.

Willis said the list was created with Ports Authority attorney George Bullwinkel.

Giese Sr. said his goal is to have the list ready by the middle of next week. He said he could begin operations three weeks from the date council approved his plan.

Not all council members were encouraging.

"At this point, I have no interest in working with you," Councilwoman Mary Beth Gray-Heyward said. "If you can provide this stuff to Van, then maybe the rest of them will, but at this point, I'm very disappointed."

Related content

  1. Bankruptcy filings, nonpayment claims temper Port Royal officials' enthusiasm for shrimp dock deal, June 1, 2013
  2. Port Royal starts to discuss 2014 budget, May 2, 2013
  3. At annual retreat, Port Royal council looks to the future, March 23, 2013
  4. Port Royal OK's fire services agreement with Beaufort, Feb. 14, 2013

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