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Frisco to review future of marina contract

Lu Snyder

FRISCO – Bernie Baltich, concessionaire for Frisco Bay Marina and owner of Osprey Adventures, says Frisco plans to terminate his 15-year relationship when his contract ends next year. Frisco Town Manager Alan Briley says that isn’t necessarily so.

“That has not been decided yet,” Briley said. “We have not done anything.”

But it remains a possibility, and Baltich has begun campaigning among his customers for support.

Baltich and his wife, Elizabeth, began business at the marina in 1989 as a small canoe rental and tour company and operated on annual contracts.

Over the years, the annual contracts turned into multi-year agreements and, though a renewal was never guaranteed, the Baltiches were the shoo-ins for a new contract when one would terminate. The town never put the contract to bid.

“Up to now, they’ve automatically renewed (our contract),” said Elizabeth Baltich.

That is no longer so.

Though Briley wouldn’t say what prompted the change in the relationship between the two parties, it has obviously been strained in the past year since Frisco began construction of the Lakefront Park and Marina – which is creating a park while offering marina improvements.

The marina already was suffering from the 2002 drought and the construction made the situation worse, the Baltiches said. When they asked the Frisco council for some financial compensation, council members offered little sympathy. Many businesses were suffering from the drought, they said, and, ultimately, the Baltiches would benefit from the marina improvements.

The Baltiches argued there was no guarantee they would reap the profits from the town’s improvements, as their contract terminates at the end of the 2004 boating season. They asked for an extension of their contract and a reduction in fees, but the council declined.

According to Briley, council members are leaving their options open.

“On Aug. 26, they are going to consider whether to give (the Baltiches) a one-year notice or not,” he said.

Should the council decide to give the Baltiches notice, the town can then look into other options. It could send out a request for proposals from other current marina operators – and Bernie and Elizabeth could submit their own bid – or research the feasibility of running the marina itself, as Dillon does with the Dillon Marina, Briley said.

Though the council has yet to make a decision, the Baltiches have begun championing their cause and sent a letter to their customers asking for support.

“Spread the word that it is not OK to squeeze out a local business; that it is not OK to spend taxpayers money re-creating a marina that is already running smoothly; that it is not OK to put special interests and egos first,” Bernie Baltich said in his letter.

The letter was also meant to notify customers that Frisco is considering operating the marina itself, Elizabeth Baltich said.

“It wasn’t to toot our own horn,” she said. “It was a courtesy letter to our customers. It was a wake-up call to say, “Do you really want a town-owned facility?'”

Marina customer Steve Bailie doesn’t.

“I like private enterprise,” Bailie said. “That’s just my way of thinking. I’ve been served so well as a customer, I would say leave it alone. He’s got this operation up and running and he’s got it tuned up. If Frisco takes it over, that’s like stealing it from him, unless they pay him a huge fee. That, to me, is unconscionable.”

Elizabeth Baltich said she and her husband are willing to put the “debacle” behind them and sign another contract. But they don’t support a town-run marina.

“For the town to start from scratch – I won’t even venture to guess what it would cost them to get to where we are today,” she said.

Nor is she certain she and Bernie will submit a bid if the town sends out bid requests or that other marina owners will jump at the opportunity to run the marina.

“If I was in the marina business (elsewhere) and I looked at our 10-year financial statement, I would probably find a different marina to run,” Elizabeth said. “It’s not rocket science. It’s not a good investment for a company to make at this point. If I didn’t already have the money invested, I wouldn’t want to continue that relationship.”


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