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The 102-passenger Native Choice, once named the Lady L, is transported within Sadler Point Marina in Ortega. The boat arrived about noon Tuesday.
Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Jul. 9, 201412:00 PM EST

Second water taxi arrives; deal not yet finalized

by: David Chapman

Like its smaller sister vessel, the 102-passenger Native Choice now rests in an Ortega marina after being delivered Tuesday.

And just like the 50-passenger Sea Charm 1, the latest vessel remains unclaimed.

A three-way deal between the city, Beaver Street Fisheries owner Harry Frisch and boat seller Trident Pontoons still was not finalized late Tuesday. So, the boats improperly purchased by Mayor Alvin Brown’s administration remained unclaimed. The city has been without water-taxi service since June 6.

The Native Choice arrived the same day as a pre-bid conference for a request for proposals the city issued in late June to find a long-term operator for the service.

The city is looking for an operator for at least five years that could perform the daily service and also contribute to larger and special events.

Nine people attended the conference, which was not mandatory, unlike the past request for proposal issued. That garnered only one response.

The bid opening is scheduled for 2 p.m. July 16.

As for the boats, Frisch is offering to buy them and lease them back to the city for a minimal fee to get the service back up and running while that long-term vendor is sought. One of the main sticking points of any deal is that Frisch doesn’t want to be held liable for the boats when he leases them back.

Council member Matt Schellenberg, working on behalf of Frisch, said the deal is close and the insurance requirements were done. But, there were final legal details still being worked out.

The city bought the boats in early June to continue water taxi service after the last vendor ceased local operations. That emergency purchase was deemed unauthorized by the General Counsel’s Office. City Council never approved the funding, then the city sought its almost $339,000 claiming the boat seller didn’t meet his obligations.

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