2017-03-16 / Front Page

Previous operator steps forward to manage pier

BY PAM BRANNON
Gulf Breeze News © 2017

The original operator of the current contract for the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier stepped forward at last Thursday’s county meeting to offer to take over the contract and operation once again. Bobby Benaquis said he was the main operator under the current contract when it was first awarded, but when he had conflict with his partners, who are currently managing the pier, he let them buy him out.

“I see now that was a mistake for the fishing pier and the Navarre community,” he said. “I am ready to step back in for the remainder of this year until the contract is done to take over operations, since things worked well when we were in charge.”

The current operators are now in litigation in court over who will end up with ownership of the contract. The pier is still operating, and last week the county attorney Roy Andrews said all fees owed the county were up to date.

“When we were in charge the pier was running smoothly,” Benaquis said. “But when I learned how professionally dishonest the other side was, I decided one of us had to go. With lawsuit in hand, I went to them and said one of us will have to go. Unfortunately my attorney convinced me to give them the option to buy me out, which the did on the 28th day of the 30 day offer. Now I can see what is happening out there, and it has been said you do not expect the current operators to make it through the year. I am willing to step back in and operate the pier until the end of the year when the contract expires.”

County Chair Rob Williamson said, “Right now we have a vendor in place there and they have paid all the fees up to date that is owed to the county, so the contract is not in default and we will honor that contract. But we did just vote to put together an RFP for bids for the next contract. You are certainly welcome to bid on that contract.”

However, Commissioner Bob Cole wanted to know what happens if the current operators throw in the towel before the end of the year. “Just so we are all on the same page, if we go out there one day and the doors have been locked and the current operators must call it quits and walk away, can we assign the contract under those emergency conditions to someone else? or do we have to have an emergency RFP sent out right away? What do we do?”

Attorney Andrews said, “This is not something we are turning a blind eye to. We have already been talking and investigating what our options would be. We know this could happen any time, not just under these operators, and we need to have options in place. Of course, keeping the fishing pier open and operating would be our first priority, since that is what the county owns and operates. Then the store would be a secondary concern.”

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