The full 8/29/2018 ARK Newspaper article text follows below for your convenience:
Tiburon ferry owner, captain says stipulations of long-term contract would be ‘ruinous’
By DEIRDRE McGowan – The ARK Newspaper
The local owner and operator of the Tiburon-to-Angel Island ferry declined to submit a competitive bid to continue providing service under a 20-year contract with the state, citing the long-term contract’s “ruinous” terms, which has left the provider of San Francisco’s service to the island with the only proposal to operate the Tiburon run.
“It would be financially irresponsible,” Angel-Island Tiburon Ferry Co. owner Capt. Maggie McDonogh said in an interview just hours before the extended deadline of 2 p.m. Aug. 24.
California State Parks spokeswoman Gloria Sandoval confirmed after the deadline that just one company submitted a bid to provide the ferry service, but she said she couldn’t disclose the name until the contract was awarded — if it’s awarded at all.
However, Blue & Gold Fleet President Patrick Murphy confirmed later that day his company had submitted the proposal.
“We’ve been providing service from San Francisco to Angel Island and San Francisco to Tiburon for more than 20 years,” he said. “We felt that expanding service to include the Tiburon to Angel Island route was a natural fit for Blue & Gold.”
The Pier 41-based fleet is the former provider of weekday commuter service between Tiburon and the city but still operates a daily Tiburon-S.F. tourist ferry, which gives the company existing access to Tiburon docks.
State Parks officials have said they want to lock in a long-term contract out of Tiburon to ensure a reliable ferry provider in advance of its plans to build 13 cabins on Angel Island — some with running water, toilets, electric stoves, charging stations and even heat — as part of a system wide effort to attract younger visitors. The ideal ferry provider would offer at least twice-daily service; have at least two vessels, one with a minimum capacity of 400 and the other with a capacity for 120; and have access to dock facilities with a public waiting area, access to public bathrooms and nearby parking.
Ferry operators would also have to pay the state a minimum monthly rent of 8 percent of gross receipts up to the first $21,000 and 10 percent of gross receipts for anything above $21,000. On the state’s 100-point scale for ranking a bid, a full 25 points is given for the amount of rent of offered.
That’s part of the hitch for McDonogh.
She has been ferrying park visitors and volunteers to Angel Island’s Ayala Cove from her company’s Tiburon dock on a month-to month contract since 1993, when her last two-year contract expired. The Angel Island-Tiburon Ferry Co. has been providing service between Tiburon and Angel Island, since her father, Milt, founded the company in 1959. Even further back, McDonogh’s grandfather, Sam Jr., owned McDonogh’s Chowder Boarding House and operated a launch rental in Tiburon that ran military supplies and personnel to the island, a boat for-hire business he inherited from his own father, Sam Sr. Today, Maggie McDonogh’s own son, Sam, is a fifth-generation captain in the family business.
In addition to the ferry service, the company offers, whale-watching, and Alcatraz cruises, along with other seasonal cruises and charter services — of earnings that wouldn’t go away if McDonogh loses the service contract. Since 1993, State Parks has put the ferry concession out to bid in a formal request-for-proposal process several times, but it has canceled bidding at least once, in 2008, because no one bid.
“It’s the same contract as in 2008, a lot of the same issues,” McDonogh said.
Many of her reasons for not bidding have remained the same. She said she was concerned with:
• A requirement that the ramp on the Tiburon side be made handicapped accessible for the parks employee boat, which would cost upward of $1.7 million, without financing costs.
• Future financial responsibility for maintenance of the docks, piers, ramps and other parts of the infrastructure of the ferry landing on the Angel Island side, including the restrooms.
“The state has claimed for years that 2 percent of the fees were being set aside for Angel Island ferry-landing maintenance,” she said, adding that she has seen no sign money is being spent for that purpose.
• The state’s insistence the minimum revenue the ferry operator would pay would be based on the revenue from a peak year, not overall revenue from an average of several years, and does not recognize ups and downs in ridership due to weather and other factors out of her control.
McDonogh’s service to Angel Island carries an average of 55,000-70,000 passengers per year. The number reached an all-time high of 100,000 passengers in 1997.
The single bid this time around doesn’t mean State Parks will automatically award the contract to Blue & Gold. Rather, State Parks could decide Blue & Gold’s proposal doesn’t meet its criteria and not award the contract at all. In that case, it may do what it did back in 2008: negotiate another month to-month contract with McDonogh.
McDonogh’s supporters see her local connection and community involvement — her boats carried more than 1,200 firefighters to Angel Island when a massive fire broke out there in 2008 — as good reasons why the state should keep her as the operator.
Devon Ford, a public-relations consultant with California Strategies, helps McDonogh with marketing efforts. He said he worked with State Parks on a bid that is fair and based on feasibility reports prepared for State Parks by its own people in 2012 and 2015.
He says he had limited success.
“There were some recommendations that State Parks didn’t necessarily adhere to,” Ford said. “For one thing, one of the recommendations was that a concessionaire would do better under a 10-year contract.
“It’s my hope that California State Parks and the Angel Island-Tiburon Ferry can come together in an agreement that works best for the community over the long term,” he said.
As McDonogh supporters have rallied on her behalf, State Parks officials have tried to reassure them that McDonogh’s experience gave her the edge.
Some are skeptical.
“The state has asked ridiculous terms, even worse than in 2008,” said Richard Snyder of Belvedere, an attorney who has been an adviser to McDonogh. “They don’t learn, and they don’t serve the public. They don’t have the public’s interests at heart.”