Second search for private operator to take over Art Keller Marina comes up empty

Art Keller Marina 1

Art Keller Marina | David Adam

QUINCY — The Quincy Park District’s search for a private operator to take over the Art Keller Marina has ended without success for a second time.

The Park Board voted at its Wednesday meeting to close the process for accepting requests for proposals for marina operations. Proposals were requested in June and January, but none were forthcoming. The most recent deadline for proposals was Sept. 28.

Rome Frericks, executive director of the Park District, said a firm operating several public facilities showed interest. However, it chose not to make a proposal because of COVID-19 concerns and dredging issues at the marina.

The Park Board committed at its July meeting to keep the marina open through 2023.

The marina operated in the black, on paper, from 2012-18. It turned a $20,567 profit in 2014. However, the marina lost $5,374 in 2019 and $11,711 in 2020. The marina had 115 slip rentals in 2021, three more than last year, but the marina is projected to lose nearly $10,000 this year.

“There’s a couple of interesting things that staff is going to start looking at,” Park Board President Roger Leenerts said. “One is a concept that is done out west in other parks where you have a full-time camper who’s a seasonal person. They put their camper back there, so it’s 24-hour security. You’re not paying them, but they’re able to provide services and courtesy to the boat renters. Somebody came up with that at the (May) meeting. 

“We also heard what everybody said about cleanliness and maintenance, so hopefully when we do the survey, we’ll hear some hopefully positive news that we made an impact.”

When asked what could possibly happen to the marina after 2023, Leenerts said, “It is going to be a challenge, but the board decided for two more years. We’ve got QBAREA (Quincy Bay Area Restoration and Enhancement Association), which I don’t know all the details on that, but it could have a very positive impact on the marina.”

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee gave tentative approval in August to allocating $33 million to fully fund projects in the Upper Mississippi River Restoration program, including the restoration of Quincy Bay.

If Congress passes the spending bills and President Joe Biden signs them, Quincy Bay will be dredged to 10-foot depths. A rock dam will be built to prevent further erosion from river traffic. Topological improvements, such as island elevation and wildlife habitat restoration for fish and waterfowl, would be made.

“It’s going to save the bay. This is a game-changer,” Rome Frericks, executive director of the Quincy Park District, said in August.

Frericks said Wednesday it’s time to think outside the box.

“We’re going to send another customer survey out to all current marina renters and get their feedback,” he said. “This is bad news, but we’re going to make it work and deliver on the promises that we’ve made to boaters.”

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