CINCINNATI — Early interest in a bidding competition for a riverfront boat dock has encouraged the city of Cincinnati’s purchasing department to consider a deadline change to give bidders more time to prepare proposals.
The current June 17 deadline could be pushed back a week or more as the city works with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to determine the scope of its existing permit for a riverfront dock, said Bobbi Hageman, chief procurement officer for the city. That question was one of several raised by representatives of eight companies that attended an informal bidder’s conference June 3.
“I’m thrilled with the turnout,” Hageman said. “It showed me that what we did was correct.”
When the city issued its request for proposals May 20, it marked the third time since 2016 that public bids were invited to build or operate a riverfront marina. After those efforts failed, the Cincinnati Park Board sparked controversy last November when it endorsed a no-bid contract to solve its boat-dock dilemma. Critics complained a proposal by Queen City Riverboats would block access to the Public Landing. Parks Director Kara Kish asked the city to launch a formal bidding process.
Queen City Riverboats owner Don Jones was among the potential bidders who asked questions at the June 3 meeting. So was Andy Storch, owner of Storch Marine. Both told the WCPO 9 I-Team in recent weeks they were not likely to bid.
The sign-in sheet for the bidder’s conference included representatives of Hafner Marine, Grand Majestic Riverboat Company, River City Marina, Prus Construction and MKSK Studios, an architectural firm. Hageman said another potential bidder has been in touch with the city, giving her confidence that proposals will be submitted.
“It’s a huge win for the city,” she said.
Grand Majestic CEO Joe Baer isn’t so sure about that.
“Honestly, I believe it’s going to be a long time before we see any docks on the riverfront,” said Baer, a veteran riverboat captain who asked several questions during the June 3 meeting about the scope of the city’s permit for riverfront docks from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“You just can’t use a pleasure-boat permit to bring in a commercial boat or even to run a restaurant off of it,” Baer said. “The Corps actually has to approve there being a floating restaurant.”
Steve Schuckman, manager of the Park Board’s planning and design division, said the city intended to pursue whatever permits it will need after determining which bid it wants to pursue. Baer was not convinced.
“That’s not how the Corps of Engineers works,” Baer said. “Why should I go and spend all the money to get drawings, to get artist renditions within a three-week period on the idea of a 'maybe?'”
Hageman said the city’s purchasing department might delay the deadline for a week or more to bring more clarity on the permit issue. Baer thinks a delay to the end of August would be necessary for bidders to know what they can include in their proposals.
“We’re looking for concepts at this point,” said Brook Cashion, a supervising management analyst in the city’s purchasing division. “The intent was to leave it open because if we limit it and we spec the concept for you, then really all we’d be asking for is price. We want proposals to be creative … use your expertise as people who do this for a living for us to help design it.”