Water Taxi owner wants exclusive sites He argues city proposal of shared docking space threatens public safety

January 04, 1998|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's two competing water taxis will stay afloat into the next century, if city officials can persuade the operators to share several landings in the Inner Harbor.

That proposal doesn't please Ed Kane, owner of Water Taxi, who is refusing to dock at any landing that his competitor is allowed to use.

"The city's recommendation raises very severe safety concerns," said James P. Gillece Jr., the lawyer representing Kane. "The idea of having two boats going to one landing, which they are to share, to try to pick up passengers -- it would be a prelude to disaster."

The city awarded landing rights to Kane's company, Harbor Boating Inc., and Silver Clipper Inc., which operates as Harbor Shuttle, about two weeks ago.

Kane and Harbor Shuttle operator Ron Morgan were the only bidders for the right to land at city-owned docks in the Inner Harbor for an unspecified period beginning April 1, 1999.

City officials decided to put all of the harbor landing rights up for bid in May after Morgan 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 city-owned docks at the Maryland Science Center and the Harborplace amphitheater, between the Pratt and Light street pavilions.

Water Taxi uses eight city-owned landings in the Inner Harbor and also docks at three landings in the Outer Harbor.

The Department of Public Works rejected the original bids from the two companies in September because they contained "serious legal deficiencies," forcing the city to start the bidding process again. The two submitted new proposals in November.

"To me it's a win-win situation for everybody," Morgan said of the shared landing rights. "We're really happy. We're getting everything we asked for -- a chance to compete."

Gillece said his client has notified city officials in writing that he would not accept their offer because of his concerns about safety.

"We were told we'd receive a response within a week," Gillece said. "That was before Christmas, and we still haven't heard a word."

City attorney Michael G. Raimondi would not comment.

Pub Date: 1/04/98

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