Small Business Compensation Chronology
Faces of the oil spill
Since the start of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the News Journal has followed several local business owners as they’ve sought compensation for lost revenue. Here is the latest from five of those business owners:
Mike Pinzone, who manages the Pensacola Beach Gulf Pier, isn’t anywhere near ready to start thinking about a final settlement in his claim for damages from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
“At this point, I just want them to compensate us for lost wages and lost income,” he said. “I want them to do that part before I worry about the final settlement.”
Pinzone said the pier income is down $250,000 compared to last year. He attributes the loss to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. That includes losses ranging from pier admission fees to sales at his Fish Sandwich snack bar.
He put in a six-month emergency payment request for $290,000 and received $110,000. That’s on top of $54,000 he received from BP prior to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility opening.
He said he has been denied compensation for the cost of cleaning oil that soiled his business, ranging from oil tramped into the pier’s restrooms to residue coating his rental rods and reels.
“They said I didn’t meet the criteria,” he said. “I have 2 acres of land at the foot of the pier. I have $2 million invested out there, and I am 1,471 feet out into the Gulf of Mexico. How can I not meet the criteria?”
For Ron Trine, the oil spill compensation process was sort of like Christmas — in January.
“I asked them for $18,000 for six months, and that’s what I got. But it didn’t come easy,” said Trine, owner of Rod-N-Reel Depot on Lillian Highway. “They sent out a letter saying they had transferred all the paperwork, and that was completely bogus. They didn’t transfer anything.”
The $18,000 is on top of the $9,500 Trine received directly from BP before the claims center took over those responsibilities.
The money has helped him stay open. When the federal government reopened red snapper season for weekends in the midsummer, that also helped his business.
Holiday preorders for Trine — who specializes in high-end and custom fishing gear — have not been what they had been in the past.
“It’s kind of mixed. I don’t really have anything on the books for Christmas yet. Normally, I would probably have a dozen orders stacked up for Christmas by now,” he said. “I am going to stock the shelves with what I am hoping everybody will want.”
Trine said he hopes to get a final settlement, but he has no expectation of what that might be.
Eddy Kiihnl estimates that his Navarre Beach Construction company has lost more than $100,000 in business as a result of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but he hasn’t seen a penny of compensation.
“They want me to give them three years of income tax,” Kiihnl said. “I gave them some information, some more paperwork and contracts, and now they want me to itemize all kinds of stuff. It’s just more and more and more.”
Work has continued to be slow. Just two of the properties Kiihnl usually services on Navarre Beach have needed work in recent months. He has been looking for work in Destin and Crestview.
“The beach is pretty much shut down. The season slows down, but I always have work,” he said. “Right around Christmas, I always keep busy. People are coming down for Christmas and they want to get their stuff painted and cleaned up. Nobody on this beach made any money on rentals this year, and that’s what they depend on to go in and clean up and refurbish.”
Kiihnl said he plans to file some final paperwork with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility but has contacted a law firm that has agreed to take his case.
It took more than a month to hear back.
“Don’t tell me a week if it’s going to take three months,” said Quina, whose firm documented four lost contracts due to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. “Tell us it’s going to take as much time as it takes to get it right. That’s what we want. We’d rather have things done properly and thoroughly, and then have people who are trying to be treated fairly be treated that way.”
Since his initial filing, Quina has lost another contract. He also says overall business is down, partly because a lack of upcoming projects means more firms are competing for the few that are available. He plans to seek more compensation in a final settlement.
“We are now competing for projects where usually we’d be competing with five or six firms. Now, we’re competing with 25, 30 firms,” Quina said.
“The nature of the business is dramatically different since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Will it change next month or next quarter or next year? I have no idea. If we feel the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has caused, at least a portion of this, we will claim at least a portion of it.”
Mark Kerr owns Diver Services of Pensacola, a business that cleans and repairs boats. The spill sent a lot of his business into dry dock.
Kerr said he has received the entire $6,000 he requested from the Gulf Coast Claims Facility as an emergency payment, but the losses continue to mount.
“The loss will just be compounded,” he said. “Customers that I lost are not coming back, and I have had other people leave the area.”
He said his business continues to be about 35 percent off last year, and he’s not sure if it will recover.
“I’m still trying to maintain,” Kerr said. “Once we get through the winter months, and we come into the next season, we’ll see if I am able to fill the void with new customers.”