The area of city waterfront adjacent to the Saranac River and the solid waste disposal plant currently under consideration for development.
Confidence is running high within the City of Plattsburgh’s political apparatus that a deal can be brokered on a city marina project in time to have something in the water by summer, but a major player in the process is pulling out.
“We have spent more then a year and a half on the project, and we have spent a lot of money with architects and designers,” said Navtours representative Bruno Lemieux from his Montreal office. “It was a great project for us, but at some point, you just have to go.”
Lemieux said that after city councilors voted down their previous proposal recently, the decision was made to “move in a different direction.”
City councilors voted down two competing proposals for development of a portion of the city waterfront near the outlet of the Saranac River on Jan. 30. The proposals were a hold-over from the previous city administration, and some councilors felt that there had not been enough chance for public input on the proposals to garner a yes vote.
“The original RFP...was done very exclusively just within house, within City Hall. There was no consulting of any key players as far as regional economic development or tourism. I don’t think there was anyone from the Chamber of Commerce who was involved in the development of the RFP...,” said City Councilor Josh Kretser.
City councilors have sought to rectify that issue, holding several working sessions with economic and regional development interests, before developing a new RFP for the project. They have also been keen to have input from the public on what direction future waterfront, and ultimately greater downtown development, should take. But, as the numbers of days until spring continue to dwindle, some are considering scaling down plans for this season, just to have something in place so as to not miss this summer’s boating season altogether.
“We’re not back to square one,” says Councilor Jim Dowdle. “We might do something small scale just to get something going for this season. I think whoever is able to get their foot in the door will be able to prove themselves, so just getting going with this season in mind is going to be an important step, because they might be here to stay.”
The two proposals the council voted down were from Canadian based touring company Navtours, and from local businessmen Jim Carter and Art Spiegel, owners of Plattsburgh Boat Basin and The Naked Turtle respectively. For his part, Carter says that he and Spiegel remain committed to the project, though he was let down by the fact that their first proposal was rejected, and they will immediately get to work if and when the city comes out with a new RFP.
“When we got the first RFP, I thought it was a real no-brainer. You just have to look to the experience we bring to the table, and the equipment, the staff that’s already here,” said Carter. “I never give up. This is what we do, and we enjoy doing it.”
Carter says he and Spiegel have not been approached by anyone from the city, and he is thus far unaware of what a new RFP might include.
Plattsburgh Mayor Jim Calnon remains optimistic as well that there will be something in place for the upcoming season, saying that his office has already fielded calls from boaters wondering if there will be moorings available in April.
“I think in the next two to three weeks we’ll have a better idea. If we don’t, we’ll blow it,” Calnon said.
Calnon also said that there is no worry in his office about Carter gaining a monopoly of the marina business if he should submit a winning proposal. Calnon points to the number of other marinas north and south of Plattsburgh, plus potential plans for developing Wilcox Dock and the City Beach as hedges against any potential monopoly.
“It’s really not a monopoly if it did happen, and if we end up getting what we want in the end, that’s a good thing,” he said.
One thing Kretser hopes for is a scaling up of dining and welcome facilities at a city owned marina. He points to cities like Burlington, who have a welcome center and access to shops and dining near their waterfront.
“In the last RFP, it almost seemed like the gateway to Plattsburgh by water was going to be a michigan stand,” Kretser said.
All parties seem to agree that the idea of moving the city sewage treatment plant is a non-starter because of the cost involved. The plant, Dowdle points out, is gravity fed, and thus remained operational even during the ice storm of 1998. He points out too that technology has negated the issue of smell coming from the plant, and that possibilities exist to lesson its visual impact as well.
Dowdle points out that the marina is only one part of a larger plan for not just the City of Plattsburgh, but the larger Plattsburgh region as a whole.
“There are a lot of options out there, and a lot of them have been explored. I don’t want people to just think ‘lets get a marina in there and get going.’ This is one bite. There are other bites to be had. I think we should eat slowly.”
Anyone is allowed to submit proposals once the city comes out with a new RFP. With Navtours no longer a part of the process, another interest could come in with a competing offer. Or it’s possible that menu the city might be eating from now features only one entree.