November 25, 2014
Dispute leaves Oregon Inlet
Fishing Center lease up in the air
By CATHERINE KOZAK
Inlet Fishing Center will be operated under an extended contract for
another year while the National Park Service reevaluates terms that
were rejected in October by the center’s board.
Park Service nor representatives of Oregon Inlet Fishing Center Inc.
would elaborate on details of the disagreement, but both parties
profess to want to find a solution.
“We’re reevaluating,” said
Joanne Blankenship, NPS concessions management specialist. “I’m
not sure what’s going to happen at this point. That’s why we’re giving
the current concessionaire another year extension. We don’t want to
stop operations -- it’s a visitor service.”
years running the marina, the board of the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center
last year had to bid for a 10-year contract to run the business that
was founded in the 1960s by some of the original charter boat captains
on the Outer Banks.
The Park Service, the owner of the
facility within Cape Hatteras National Seashore on the north side of
the Oregon Inlet, had extended the solicitation period until February
for the prospectus it had released in June 2013. After a review of the
Fishing Center’s bid, the Park Service offered a contract. It was
“The contract that they had presented,” said
Kenneth Brown, the board’s vice-president, “it has quite a few
differences in it than it had in the past. We are in the process of
trying to find a common ground with the Park Service to try to keep
Oregon Inlet Fishing Center a viable business.
“Right now,” he added, "the ball is in the Park Service’s lap.”
Reynolds, spokesman at the NPS regional headquarters in Atlanta, said
that there was apparently a dispute with the bidder – he would not
confirm the name -- over the parameters of the contract, although “they
submitted their bid based on the prospectus.”
the document bidders reviewed included for the first time a requirement
to pay a minimum franchise fee of 4 percent. In addition, the new
concessioner would be responsible for maintenance of the facility and
would be required to follow federal bidding and construction
guidelines. Insurance coverage would also have to increase to $6
million from the previous $300,000.
The new 10-year concession
contract would also require a year-round operation that offered
headboat and charter fishing, marina services and a retail/grocery
store. The contract was initially expected to begin in spring 2014.
with approval of the agency, would be permitted to run services, and
the concessioner could provide its own fleet of charter boats and
Captains are currently sub-contractors in the
existing concession agreement, which has been held by the same
corporation since 1973. The 1998 contract expired in December 2013. A
one-year continuation of service agreement under the terms of that
contract was issued in January by the Park Service and will again be
issued in January 2015.
Reynolds declined to say how many total bids were submitted, or provide details about the prospectus and the proposed contract.
are not at liberty to discuss it because we are now again back in the
process,” he said. “Since the contract was never signed, that process
was never completed."
The Park Service, he added, is forbidden
from making any changes in the prospectus without going through the
mandated procedures. Regulations also limit the amount of
disclosure that is permitted, he said, while the contract bid process
is under way. He said he did not know when a new prospectus would be
Blankenship said that the Park Service appreciates
the benefits of the Fishing Center to the community and hopes to be
able to work out a mutually acceptable agreement.
Meanwhile, the public won’t notice any difference in the operation for at least another year.
“We haven’t asked them to change anything,” she said. “It’s status quo.”
said that he does not want to jeopardize the good working relationship
the company has with the Park Service by talking about its issues with
the rejected contract. But he said he is optimistic that any conflict
can be resolved.
“We’ve been there for 41 years, and we want
to be there for another 41 years,” he said. “Our main goal is to
provide the very best experience for Oregon Inlet Fishing Center that
we can. I’m hoping that when all this smoke clears, we’re still there.”