William S. Linnell of Portland is a candidate for City Council in the 3rd District.
It was clearly not a politically motivated move, as some suggest, but instead was directly bipartisan, as two Greens, a Democrat and a Republican combined to halt the "full speed ahead" attitude of their more excitable colleagues.
As a lobsterman and licensed towboat captain, I have some experience on the waterfront. When boaters go "full speed ahead" in unknown waters, they often call me to come get them.
Drawing on my experience in the 1980s as a contracts specialist at Bath Iron Works, dealing with the contracts for multimillion- dollar government and private sector contracts, I can say with confidence: The current effort to develop the waterfront has significant flaws.
The time allowed for the original Request for Proposal was woefully short. So short, in fact, that only two companies bid on the project.
The three-month deadline was more suited to a multifamily house project than a $100 million shorefront development.
Potential bidders for these projects are not sitting around on 5- gallon pails waiting for some business to walk in the door -- they're busy.
The three-month RFP translated into less-competitive bidding, which shortchanges Portland taxpayers.
We really don't know what the right price is for this project, because it hasn't been given proper exposure to the free market.
Hastily thrown together, the RFP didn't even contemplate the "mega-berth," the giant floating cruise ship pier that had already been planned, discussed, argued over, approved and permitted.
The current proposal would compete with the mega-berth, which we have already committed to and invested in. Imagine a fisherman building one dock, and then trying to start another one before the first one is finished. That would be numb.
Bidding on industrial contracts can and should be a very competitive process. At Bath Iron Works, it was hard to make money bidding on the hulls, so the real money was made on the change orders: There was no competition.
Once the contract was awarded, however, the game changed dramatically: Like a car up on a mechanic's lift, the shipyard had a captive audience. No one else could bid on the job.
Ocean Properties and friends are pushing hard to award the Maine State Pier contract before some of the big changes are made. They want to get this car up on the lift.
That would be a big mistake for Portland taxpayers. The city should get the RFP squared away before putting it out to bid.
That is, put in the mega-berth, along with any other big changes, in the RFP now and give a reasonable time for the bidders to react -- at least 90 days, or ideally six months, so that a couple of others could join the bidding.
What's the rush? You can always develop shorefront property in Maine.
When currents, wind, weather or rocks combine to complicate safe navigation, the prudent sailor often kicks the boat into neutral, while the more impetuous go full speed ahead.
Considering the size and potential impact of this project, the wise captain would pause, as the council just did.
— Special to the Press Herald