September 3, 2013
Oregon Inlet Fishing Center will compete with others for concession contract
BY CATHERINE KOZAK
the first time in at least 17 years, Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, Inc.,
which includes some of the original sportfishermen on the Outer Banks,
will have to compete against other bidders for a 10-year concession
contract to run the busy marina.
“We’ve had this contract for
40 years,” said Tony Tillett, chairman of the company’s board of
directors. “It’s a big drawing card for our area.”
National Park Service has received so many questions about the
prospectus that was first released in June that it has extended the
original 90-day solicitation period from Sept. 3 to Feb. 5, 2014. The
new contract is expected to be awarded by fall 2014.
Echols, deputy superintendent of the Park Service Outer Banks Group,
said that so far about a dozen prospective bidders have expressed
interest, and there have been about 68 questions seeking clarification
about the bidding process and the prospectus.
contract, he said, will manage the operation under the agency’s 1998
concession law -- its most recent. The draft contract calls for a
year-round business offering charter boat and headboat trips for a fee
to the public. The concession will also provide moorage and fuel sales
in the water and at the docks, as well as fishing supplies and
groceries at the retail store.
“This contract is a 1965 contract,” he said, “so the ’98 law really needs to be in effect in our park.”
The Park Service also plans to update the concession contract with the Avon Fishing Pier in the near future, he said.
are a number of changes in the fishing center’s draft contract, Echols
said. The agency will be looking at how each bidder proposes to provide
the necessary services to meet the criteria, so it is difficult to
predict what the final concession agreement will include.
of disposable water bottles have been banned as of June, but the ban
won’t go into effect until the Park Service has installed its new water
stations. Inexpensive BPA-free bottles and aluminum bottles will be
Echols said that the water stations installed in
July at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site have already saved the use
of 1,100 water bottles. The bottle ban is part of the agency’s overall
green initiative, an effort that will also be a factor in awarding a
contract for the concession.
For the first time, the new
concessioner at Oregon Inlet would have to pay a minimum franchise fee
of 4 percent and be responsible for maintenance of the infrastructure.
would be required to cover $6 million, rather than the previous $300,000.
And all repairs and improvements would be required to abide by federal
bidding and construction guidelines.
With the agency’s
approval, the required services can also be provided through
sub-concession contracts. The concessioner also has the option to
provide its own fleet of charter boats and captains.
proposed 4 percent fee on charter trips could really hurt charter
captains, who are already dealing with fuel increases, said Duke
Spencer, a 30-year veteran charter captain.
“It hits the bottom line,” he said. “What you do is increase your rates or suck it in.”
rates cannot be increased without permission of the Park Service, which
has required the marina to match other area marina rates, Spencer said.
Charter captains are sub-contractors in the current concession agreement.
last couple of years, business has been just holding its own,” said
Spencer, owner of charter boat Capt’n Duke. “A lot of that has to do
with the economy. The funds available to the tourist has not allowed
for much extracurricular activities.”
The concession contract
held since 1973 by Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, Inc. expires on Dec.
31. The company, with 18 stockholders and controlled by a board of
directors, has been in place since the 1960s and has been the sole
“The current Oregon Inlet board has done a great job providing a service to the public,” Echols said.
said that the current contract has been extended repeatedly
year-by-year and has not been competitive. Part of the reason is the
time and resources it took to get the document ready to put out to bid.
“We wanted to get this prospectus a lot sooner,” he said, “but it’s taken a lot longer than we had hoped.”
Inlet Fishing Center has its origins in the modest charter fishing
business launched after World War II by Sam Tillett and other watermen.
According to the website for Sam & Omie’s Restaurant in Nags Head,
originally their vessels were moored in a ditch across from where
Pirate’s Cove is today.
When the state built a road from Whalebone
Junction to Oregon Inlet, the men seized the opportunity to move their
boats closer to the inlet and its great fishing. By 1953, a small
marina was constructed at the site, and in 1955 the National Park
Service purchased the land and the marina, which was leased back to
Sam’s brother, Toby.
Today, Sam’s son, Omie, owns stock in the
marina his uncle helped grow to the full-service, 42-vessel charter
operation, and his younger son, Tony, is the chairman of the company’s
Board of Directors.
“Maybe 15 of us moved down there and
started taking charters out of Oregon Inlet,” Tony Tillett, 72,
recalled, adding that it was then mostly a family operation. “That’s
the way it started out, because we were all local captains. We just
wanted the marina to operate out of Oregon Inlet. At that point, things
were so on the down, there wasn’t much money.”
said that the original marina soon changed hands, and his company
eventually bought out the contract from somebody else.
“There’s a few of us left,” he said.
old-timers and their descendants who still own stock in the company
include Arvin Midgett, Sam Stokes, Buddy Cannady, Billy Baum, Kenneth
Brown, grandson of Aycock Brown and son of Billy Brown, and
Shannon Twiddy, granddaughter of Warren O’Neal and daughter of Hudean
Tillett said that the way it now, the charter
vessels are only charged dock rent. He said the draft contract proposes
to not only collect a share of the business gross --most of which is
earned by the charters -- but also another 4 percent fee from them.
“They would be double-dipping,” he said.
it comes down to the wire, Tillett said that a lot of those details may
be negotiable. But he said the first impression of the “scouts” sent by
the agency in June was not very good.
“They thought the Park Service owned every charter boat we had out there,” he said. “They don’t even know what’s going on.”
If the company is not awarded the contract, Tillett said they would probably wait to see what the new concessioner would do.
“Who knows?” he said. “Maybe they don’t want a charter fleet there anymore.”
a board member who is also Manteo’s finance officer, said that the
board agreed to apply for the concession and was ready to submit the
prospectus when the deadline was extended. Now she said they will wait
until the Park Service publishes the answers to the questions, expected
within a few weeks. Meanwhile, she said that she believes that the
company is in a strong position.
“We’re trying to move forward
and protect the tradition and to be able to provide the service,”
Twiddy said. “I would say that Oregon Inlet Fishing Center would be a
successful bidder based on our history. They’ve got basically 40 years
of experience providing charter fishing trips.
“To me, they put sport fishing on the map. These folks made sportfishing what it is.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
interested in learning more about this opportunity and reviewing the
updated Business Opportunity and Draft Operating Plan should visit the
NPS Commercial Services website at http://www.concessions.nps.gov/prospectuses.htm.