Wilmette Harbor lease held up as groups jostle
The Wilmette Harbor Association is working to obtain a 39-year lease to continue running the Wilmette Harbor from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. The harbor association has managed the harbor since incorporating in 1938. |
SIZE: 6.19 acres
MOORING: 292 slips
OWNER: Metropolitan Water Reclamation District
MANAGER: Wilmette Harbor Association
Updated: April 15, 2013 6:21AM
WILMETTE — Last week, Wilmette Harbor Association president Jim Dominik was hopeful that the association would finally get the 39-year harbor management lease it wanted from Metropolitan Water Reclamation District officials on March 7.
Instead Dominik and other association members must wait until the MWRD’s March 21 board meeting to see if they’ve won the bid.
The MWRD’s procurement committee had recommended accepting a $68,501 Association bid to manage the harbor – roughly six acres of water created 100 years ago as a settling basin, and used by the MWRD to power its Wimette Pumping Station, as well as to handle overflow from its Deep Tunnel system.
However Commissioner Michael Alvarez asked for the two-week delay. He gave no reason for his request, and did not respond to a Pioneer Press call last week.
Friday, Dominik tried to put the hitch in perspective: “My understanding is that it’s not uncommon that issues are pulled off the consent agenda and held over.” He also insisted that the WHA, which has managed the harbor for 75 year on the MWRD’s behalf, was the best group to choose to continue doing the job.
“The WHA has been operating this harbor since 1938,” he said. “Not once have we ever been accused of not doing our job. When you look at the big picture I don’t see how the harbor could be run less expensively or more effectively.”
An MWRD staff report said the WHA bid was the only one of three that included adequate financial information. It recommended rejecting two bids that would have provided the MWRD with more money: a $70,000 bid from Wisconsin-based Centrepoint Yacht Services LLC, and a $70,000 bid from Wilmette Harbor Management Inc.
MWRD Commissioner Barbara McGowan said March 7 that she did not know what issues MWRD staff had with Centrepoint or Wilmette Harbor Management’s bids. MWRD public affairs officer Allison Fore said the district requested the same 15 points of background information in all lease bidding contracts.
Meanwhile, Fritz Duda, a director of Wilmette Harbor Management, which wants to manage the harbor and expand its use, notably to powerboat users, said his group is concerned about the bid process’s transparency.
“We’ve asked on multiple occasions what the (MWRD) was looking for. We have not received any answers,” he said, adding that his group provided all the financial information requested in the bid request.
Until now, the MWRD allowed the association to manage the harbor, which has 292 boat slips, in return for paying for dredging and upkeep. However, state law changed in 2010, and the lease went to a public bid process after the association and the Wilmette Park District couldn’t agree on a partnership that might have obviated public bidding.
Last September, the MWRD bid a new 39-year lease, setting a minimum $67,000 rental fee, on top of dreading and upkeep. The current lease ended in early 2012, but was extended until the end of this month.
Duda, of Winnetka, said last week that he and his five-person group, including fellow Winnetkan Warren James, believe they could do a better job of repairing and maintaining the harbor than the association has. He and James, in James’ official March 7 remarks to the MWRD, pointed to a harbor condition study done last year by the Wilmette Park District, while it tried to decide whether it wanted to manage the harbor.
The SmithGroup/JJR study, cited by the park district when it decided not to get involved, listed $49,000 in immediate repair needs, but more than $11 million more in repair that consultants said would have be done by the end of 15 years.
Duda also said WHM would make it easier for boat owners to bid on moorings. It would work with neighboring property owners, like the park district and the Baha’i Temple, to expand the amount of space available for harbor use, he said.
Park District Director Steve Wilson confirmed March 11 that Duda called him March 7, but said, “until the leaseholder identifies the bid winner, and until the bid winner indicates what they are planning to do, then there is nothing to talk about.”
Dominik, while acknowledging the harbor “isn’t pretty” insisted that the association handles all necessary repairs and maintenance as needed.