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The Native Choice is one of two boats being purchased by businessman Harry Frisch after the city improperly bought the vessels.
Jax Daily Record Thursday, Jul. 17, 201412:00 PM EST

2 vendors respond to water-taxi request for proposals

by: David Chapman

When the call was put out for long-term vendors to handle the city’s water-taxi service, the hope was for multiple responses.

There are two companies in the running after bids were announced to the public Wednesday. They are A Marine Express LLC, headed by Daniel Dunkley, and Lakeshore Marine, headed by Frank Surface. Both are based in Jacksonville.

Surface and Ronald Hilliard, who worked for former service provider HarborCare, were in attendance together, saying afterward their hope was to bring the service back to Jacksonville.

They don’t have boats, but said they would be willing to talk to Beaver Street Fisheries owner Harry Frisch about two boats he is purchasing. Frisch has stepped in to buy 102- and 50-passenger boats the city initially purchased for about $339,000 to continue short-term service.

Surface said they also could buy a 49-passenger vessel in Palm Coast.

Representatives from A Marine Express weren’t at the Wednesday meeting.

From here, the two proposals will be the city’s Procurement Division for discrepancies before being sent to the Parks, Recreation and Community Development Department for evaluation.

If both proposals are valid, department officials will rank them before sending them to a committee specializing in competitive sealed bids for a selection to send to the mayor’s office for contract negotiations.

The bids are exempt from public records laws for the next 30 days or when the parks department makes its selection, whichever comes first.

The latest request for a long-term vendor came after one issued earlier this year attracted only one response. Despite receiving just two, city spokeswoman Pam Roman said the city is glad to see competition for the request.

While Wednesday had more to do with the possibility of a long-term solution, the short-term continues to be finalized.

Roman said a lease between the city and Frisch for the two boats is signed, with the contingency of Frisch taking the title of the vessels.

Once he does, Coast Guard inspections can be scheduled and the lease immediately will go into effect.

Once completed, a deal between the city and Atlantic Beach-based Multi Marine Services Inc. would be closer to finalized. Under that agreement, Multi Marine would use the city’s boats to provide water-taxi operations for up to six months.

The contract lets Multi Marine keep revenue but paying all expenses.

Roman said there is nothing in the contract that would allow the company to continue service after that time period and the city would honor the request for proposal for that long-term vendor that is underway.

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