City invites new ideas for a riverfront boat dock
CINCINNATI – The Cincinnati Park Council has launched its third attempt since 2015 to bring a public dock to the edge of the Cincinnati River, five months after scuttling a controversial proposal that could have reduced access to the public dock.
Park Council issued a request for proposals on May 20, seeking new solutions by June 17. At least two potential bidders complain that there is not enough time to respond, while a third has not decided whether or not to submit a proposal.
“I really hope we get a responsive offer. I can’t promise you that we will, ”said Kevin Flynn, Cincinnati City Council candidate and former park board member who defended last year’s unsolicited proposal by Queen City Riverboats for construct and operate a wharf at the Public Landing.
Flynn still believes this solution might have worked if the city had used the proposal as a starting point for a negotiated contract.
“Honestly, I think that’s one of those things where we go through the process because people have raised hell,” Flynn said. “But that will involve somebody putting their own capital into the project. That’s what we had in December. We had a partner who was willing to provide their own infrastructure and operate the wharf at their own expense for 20 years. . It was not nothing. Commitment. “
The Request for Proposals invites bidders to use the Park Council’s $ 1.7 million budget to design, build and operate a wharf that can accommodate at least 20 private boats at a time, as well as police and marine equipment. fire. The document describes a preferred dock location between the public dock and the John A. Roebling suspension bridge, adding, “The location must not interfere with commercial cruise lines or the public dock access ramp.”
The new tendering process marks the second time that the Park Council has been shopping for dock builders. A 2016 tender process ended with the selection of a construction manager and a price tag of $ 3.6 million for a wharf at the foot of Main Street. In 2019, the estimate climbed to $ 5 million and a second bidding process ended without satisfactory bids from the dock operators.
When Queen City Riverboats owner Don Jones made an unsolicited offer to build and operate a wharf last November, the park’s board of directors unanimously approved the idea. But criticism of the wharf’s location and the financial terms of the deal led Parks Director Kara Kish to call for a formal bidding process.
In a May 6 interview with the I-Team, Jones expressed frustration that it took the city more than four months to invite new proposals and said he was against participation.
“I spent so much money just to try to figure it out, and you can’t get answers,” Jones said. “Everyone is welcome to bid. I don’t think anyone will because it costs a lot of money to do these things. So I gave up all hope that this would ever happen.
Jones later issued a statement saying he “would seriously consider bidding on this project.”
BB Riverboats owner Alan Bernstein told the I-Team in December that he would submit a bid if the park’s board offered the opportunity. Now he says the city deadline doesn’t give him enough time to prepare a proposal.
“We’re just coming out of COVID and we’re trying to recover,” Bernstein said. “We are working two and three times to try to restore order to our operations. So with the timeline they put in there, I don’t think I could do it even though I hired someone to take on the project.
Andy Storch has also considered teaming up with others on a waterfront dock proposal. But now that he’s seen the 30-page tender, the owner of Storch Marine doesn’t think he’s qualified.
“In general, I would say the specified scope of services will make it difficult for anyone to deliver a proposal before the due date,” Storch said. “I speak to design, construction and installation companies with the necessary experience on similar projects. But again, well-qualified companies are unlikely to have the time to digest and come up with proposals. “
The RFP is a marked departure from the 13-page proposal Jones presented last fall. He asked the city to pay Queen City Riverboats $ 1.7 million and manage all permits for its 1,280 linear feet of mooring. He asked Queen City Riverboats to cover all costs over $ 1.7 million and to receive all income from mooring fees and a floating restaurant. The proposal included a 20-year lease agreement in which the city would gradually transfer ownership of the wharf and receive $ 1 per year in rent.
The city’s new proposal calls for revenue sharing between the city and the successful bidder and sets out dozens of requirements for companies that would design, build and operate the new wharf. These requirements include adhering to Ohio payroll rules and awarding at least 2% of all contracts to minority-owned businesses and 4% to women-owned businesses. The city’s request for proposals states that the successful bidder will be responsible for obtaining all permits and calls for the wharf to be monitored 24 hours a day with staff available to respond to any emergency within 30 minutes.
Bernstein said the terms set out in the city’s request for proposals would lead to a better deal for the city.
“The location is much better,” he says. “They make it very clear that you cannot prevent the public landing.”
Bernstein also likes the revenue-sharing approach in the new RFP, which calls on bidders to come up with a “revenue-sharing structure to include mooring services and all ancillary services” offered at the wharf.
“It is very unfair to ask taxpayers to guarantee this whole operation,” Bernstein said. “They’re not talking about the formula, but they’re definitely talking about revenue sharing, which starts to bring money back to the taxpayer.”
The city is hosting a bidders’ conference on June 2 at the public jetty and requires bidders to submit questions in writing by June 7. August 21, 2022.