city officials struggling
to find operator for boat dock
(March 2006) Ever since The Wharf floating
barge pulled its restaurant and boat docks out of town in January 2005,
Madison city officials have struggled to find a replacement operator
to provide transient and permanent boat dock operations on the riverfront.
Madison Mayor Al Huntington says he remains committed to finding an
operator, preferably before the summer season sets in, but currently
he has none in place. That means Madison, much of whose tourism attraction
is connected to the Ohio River, may go a second summer without boat
docks in town.
by Don Ward
were forced to beach their crafts
on shore at the 2005 Madison Ribberfest
because no dock was available.
Last summer, the city allowed out-of-town boaters to beach
their watercrafts along the shoreline during weekends and festivals,
such as the Madison Ribberfest and Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art.
But that is not the best situation for boaters, Huntington said, because
they could sustain damage. Plus, there are no water or electric facilities
being provided to them.
It doesnt look real good right now, and Im not real
happy about it, Huntington said. Im pretty open to
anything anyone would bring in here.
Despite his frustration, Huntington remains committed to a boat dock
of some kind. We know that the river is an important part of our
tourism efforts because people come here by boat and shop in our stores
and eat at our restaurants. I dont have any way of measuring the
return on investment, but we know the opportunity is there.
The Wharf owner Gary Gillespie pulled up anchor and moved his restaurant
barge to his property along the Kentucky River in Prestonville, Ky.,
after operating at the Madison riverfront for nearly three years. The
wharf was beached on the riverbank there and is not open for business.
Meanwhile, Madison city officials almost immediately began advertising
for bids in hopes of luring another group or business to operate boat
docks in town. They sent city officials to look at dock operations in
Jeffersonville and New Albany to try and get some ideas.
In March 2005, the board received two proposals one
from partners L.D. Honeycutt and RE/MAX Group 1 broker Jim Pruett, and
a second proposal from Rivercrest Marina owner Charlie Spillman. Although
Huntington told a Board of Public Works & Safety meeting that the
Honeycutt-Pruett proposal was more detailed, the city ultimately selected
No details were ever released about Spillmans plan. Spillman apparently
did not follow through with his proposal because in June the city withdrew
its contract offer to him.
They went back to Honeycutt and Pruett asking if they were still interested,
but Pruett said, At that particular time, we were involved in
other projects and could not commit to the planning time and getting
the resources necessary to do it.
Last fall, the city again advertised for bids for a boat dock operator,
but so far, none has materialized, according to Huntington. He said
Joey Helton of Milton, Ky., did come to City Hall and discuss with him
the possibility of operating a boat dock, but he has not returned and
Huntington did not know whether he would.
Ive not heard anything from Mr. Helton since our meeting,
Helton did not return several calls left for him.
Pruett, meanwhile, who is a boater, said he has spoken with Helton and
has been encouraging him to pursue the plan. Whether Im
involved or not, the city needs a boat dock near town for seasonal and
The Pruett-Honeycutt proposal included a monthly flat rate remuneration
to the city in exchange for a lease contract to operate the docks, Pruett
said. The two men had traveled to Cincinnati and Louisville looking
at barges for possible purchase. Honeycutt owns a fabricating shop in
Bloomington, where he had planned on constructing the dock out of barges
As for the idea of paying an operator to provide docks,
rather than to insist on the city collecting a percentage of revenue,
Huntington said he did not favor that option. The riverfront property
has value, and we expect to be paid for it.
Honeycutt, who owns a marina in Bloomington, purchased some of the storage
barns at Rivercrest Marina during the November 2002 bankruptcy auction.
He had planned to use that property as his base of operating the boat
docks in town. But he recently sold the property to Spillman, saying,
When our proposal was denied, I had no reason of keeping it any
Honeycutt, who is semi-retired, said he has built, operated and later
sold a large marina operation on Patoka Lake and his daughter now manages
his marina on Monroe Lake near Bloomington.
With my experience in marinas, I never figured out why our proposal
wasnt selected, Honeycutt said. I thought we were
He said he had arranged to apply for up to $200,000 in state grant money
from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to help fund
his operation. Ive used that grant program three times before.
Asked if he would consider submitting another proposal to the city,
Honeycutt said he would have to think about it. Im not saying
no, I just cant answer right away.
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