Jacksonville, FL - Following a series of miscommunications, mismanagements, and overall missteps, the City of Jacksonville is moving closer to seeing Downtown water taxi service running again.
The second boat which Jacksonville originally intended to purchase to run a stopgap service has now arrived on the First Coast. The City has not taken ownership of this boat or the companion which arrived several weeks ago, however, because the money they intended to use has not been allocated by Jacksonville’s City Council.
Instead, Beaver Street Fisheries Chairman of the Board Harry Frisch has committed to the City that he will buy the boats and lease them to the City, which will select a vendor to run the service. Frisch toured the vessel Tuesday morning with Councilman Matt Schellenberg, who has been helping with the deal.
“I’m 91 years old- I never made a commitment that I didn’t keep in 91 years, so I’m not changing my mind right now,” Frisch tells WOKV of the pending purchase.
Robbie Cunningham with Trident Pontoons, Inc.- which is selling the boats- says he’s been put in a sort of holding pattern while the deal is finalized and has not been given a timeline for when that will happen. Frisch says it’s a “matter of days” before the purchase is complete.
“We’re moving as quickly as possible, but we do want to make sure that we dot all our “i’s” and cross all our “t’s” and make sure everything is done correctly,” says JaxParks Spokeswoman Pam Roman.
In addition to wanting to get service back up and running soon, Roman says they’re also concerned about long-term service. Leasing Frisch’s vessels is only designed to be a temporary solution which lasts about six months- or as long as it will take for a new vendor to be chosen and to get set up.
A “request for proposals”- or RFP- has been issued seeking a long term vendor. The bids are due to the City next week, but a pre-bid meeting held Tuesday brought out nine prospective companies who all expressed their intent to submit a bid. The prior RFP brought back only one bid.
Roman says they’ve made some changes between the two RFP’s, one of the biggest being the capacity demands for the vessels provided by the vendor. One of the reasons the prior vendor ended service is because they could not commit under the new RFP guidelines to offering the number of seats the City wanted in daily service, citing cost efficiency concerns. Roman says the demands here are lower.
Frisch says he’s happy to step in where the City needs help because of what the City has given him, his family and his business over the last 60 years.
“Can you imagine Jacksonville, with everything that we’ve got, not having a water taxi?”
Roman says despite the progress, they haven’t put a timeline on when service is expected to resume.