City calls water taxi proposals insufficient Two companies' plans said to have 'serious legal deficiencies'

September 11, 1997|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's familiar water taxis are facing turbulent tides in their bid to do business in the Inner Harbor.

The city has told operators of the Water Taxi and Harbor Shuttle that the proposals they submitted to city officials this summer -- in hopes of securing a new contract that would allow them to stay afloat into the next century -- are insufficient.

The companies were the only businesses to compete for the contract, which would have granted one or more water taxi services the right to land at city-owned docks in the Inner Harbor for an unspecified period beginning April 1, 1999.

In a letter dated Sept. 5, Dave L. Montgomery, deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Works, notified lawyers for the two companies that their submissions "contain serious legal deficiencies," forcing the city to start the bidding process again. The DPW is responsible for Baltimore's harbor landings.

Silver Clipper Inc., which operates as Harbor Shuttle, lands at the Maryland Science Center and the Harborplace Amphitheatre, between the Pratt and Light Street pavilions. Landings at the Rusty Scupper, the Aquarium and all other city-owned docks in the harbor are off-limits to the company.

Harbor Boating Inc., which operates as Water Taxi, uses eight city-owned landings in the Inner Harbor. The company's water taxis also dock at three landings in the Outer Harbor.

City officials decided to put all of the harbor landing rights up for public bid in May, after several months of controversy. In February, Ron Morgan, operator of Silver Clipper's Harbor Shuttle, accused city officials of giving his only competitor -- Ed Kane, owner of Harbor Boating -- favored treatment and filed a $2 million lawsuit against the city, claiming he had been banned from the Inner Harbor. The suit was dropped a week later, after Morgan secured landing rights to two city-owned docks in the popular tourist area.

City attorney Michael G. Raimondi would not discuss the deficiencies in the proposals that were submitted by Kane and Morgan for the 1999 contract, but city records show that Silver Clipper was unable to provide the DPW with audited financial records and Harbor Boating failed to include a performance bond and proof the company is in good standing with the state -- documents required by the city to compete for the contract.

"It was merely an oversight," said James P. Gillece Jr., the lawyer representing Kane. "We don't consider that a 'serious legal deficiency.' "

Morgan said he was unable to complete a full audit by June 7, the deadline for proposals.

"It's being done as we speak," Morgan said. "We simply ran out of time."

Pub Date: 9/11/97

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