NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – The town did not receive any bids for the lease of its Middlebridge Road property – formerly the home of Narrow River Kayaks – a development leaving town officials considering its next move for the spot with a sandy beach along the Narrow River.
“I’ve informed the council of the situation and town staff and will regroup on how we will proceed next,” said Town Manager James Tierney. The submission deadline for the bids, which called for a $32,000 minimum annual offer for a five-year contract, was March 2.
One member of the Town Council, Jill Lawler who is president pro tem, said, “I am in favor of having the Kayak Operation go back out to a competitive bidding process that yields the best results for the Town.”
Other members did not offer comment in response to an email asking about whether the matter will be discussed at any upcoming meetings or if the town should simply re-bid the project.
Narrow River Kayaks, a fixture for 30 years in town and whose disputed lease reached the state Supreme Court in 2015, has announced that it may end operations at its long-time Middlebridge Road site.
Jason Considine, owner of Narrow River Kayaks, would not comment on his reasons for declining to bid again. When the solicitation for bids again for leasing the property was announced last month, Considine issued a public statement on social media.
“As there does exist the very real possibility that Narrow River Kayaks will no longer operate at its location of 30-plus years, we are exploring all options and plan to open for business in some capacity this spring,” he said at the time.
Considine has also pulled all his equipment out and his current lease has expired. Tierney said Narrow River Kayaks’ lease expired at the end of last year. Payments to the town from 2018 to the end of that lease were $ 32,500 annually, he added.
In his earlier public announcement, he said, “While our lease with the town has expired, we have not yet made any official statements or final decisions regarding our status moving forward, and the fate of our location has not yet been determined.”
In addition, he said, “There are many different factors from the perspectives of both the town and Narrow River Kayaks that have brought us to where we are now.” He would not elaborate on those matters and town officials said they were unaware of the issues he was referencing.
Meanwhile, he and a representative of The Kayak Centre in North Kingstown – a rival bidder in 2012 for leasing the property – attended a recent bidder’s conference to learn about the town’s stipulations for leasing the land.
In that 2012 a bid solicitation led to a lengthy court suit that brought two appeals after the highest bidder – the Kayak Centre of Wickford offering $180,505 for the five-year lease – was rejected in favor of Narrow River’s lower offer.
Jeff Shapiro, owner of Kayak Centre, simply said that he didn’t bid again because “it wasn’t a great experience the last time and we’ll see what happens if they put it out to bid again.”
The town purchased a 9.5-acre parcel on Middlebridge Road for $1.4 million from the Eddy family in 2012. The site included rental cottages, a vacant restaurant building and a kayak rental store. Town officials began to develop plans to manage those leases in the subsequent months.
On the recommendation of former Parks and Recreation Director Steve Wright, the town put the paddle sports concession out to bid. It pitted Narrow River Kayaks against The Kayak Centre.
Wright recommended the bid go to The Kayak Centre, but in the week before it was scheduled for a vote by the Town Council, fans of Narrow River Kayaks as well as Middlebridge neighbors began a social media campaign to support Narrow River Kayaks.
This led to The Kayak Centre’s lawsuit against the town and various lower court rulings that eventually tossed the matter on appeal in the laps of state Supreme Court Justices.
It ruled in 2015 an appeal in Superior Court should have considered possible bad-faith dealings by Narragansett officials when dismissing the Kayak Centre’s lawsuit against the town.
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