De­spite con­tract dis­pute, it’s full speed ahead

San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday) - - NEWS - By Carl Nolte Carl Nolte is a San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle colum­nist. His col­umn ap­pears ev­ery Sun­day. Email: cnolte@sfchron­i­cle. com Twit­ter: @carl­noltesf

Capt. Mag­gie McDonogh is mad as hell, and she wants ev­ery­body to know about it. She is the owner and op­er­a­tor of the tiny An­gel Is­land Tiburon Ferry Co., and she is in the mid­dle of a dis­pute that has been go­ing on for 10 years now with the Cal­i­for­nia State Parks sys­tem.

Some­time this fall, McDonogh’s com­pany may well lose the con­tract it has held for close to 60 years to pro­vide ferry ser­vice be­tween Tiburon and An­gel Is­land State Park. The dis­pute is over a con­tract, and McDonogh says the terms the state De­part­ment of Parks and Re­cre­ation is of­fer­ing are so tough a small com­pany like hers wouldn’t be able to com­pete.

“They are try­ing to put me out of busi­ness,” she said.

Un­der the law, the con­ces­sion con­tracts at state parks — to pro­vide ser­vices like trans­porta­tion, food and tours — must be put out to bid. The process is called re­quest for pro­posal, or RFP, in gov­ern­ment talk. The state is of­fer­ing a 20-year, nonex­clu­sive con­tract for the TiburonAn­gel Is­land ser­vice. A dif­fer­ent run, be­tween San Fran­cisco and An­gel Is­land, op­er­ated by the much larger Blue & Gold Fleet, is un­der a sep­a­rate con­tract.

McDonogh’s mile-long run across Rac­coon Strait takes only 15 min­utes, but it is the bread and but­ter of her firm. “My great­grand­fa­ther came to Tiburon with the rail­road,” McDonogh said. That would have been in 1884. The McDonoghs ran a board­ing­house and a small boat busi­ness. Tiburon and the water were their life.

“This was a blue-col­lar town then, a rail­road town with tough bars all along Main Street,” McDonogh said.

The last train left Tiburon 51 years ago, and now it’s an af­flu­ent place. The av­er­age home is val­ued at $1.8 mil­lion, the av­er­age yearly fam­ily in­come is $149,510, and Main Street is squeaky clean.

But the McDonoghs are still main­stays of the town, the kind who seem to know ev­ery­body. Be­sides the An­gel Is­land ferry, the com­pany of­fers sun­set cruises along the Marin shore, whale watch­ing be­yond the Golden Gate and scenic tours.

“We are a lo­cally owned, fifth-gen­er­a­tion fam­ily busi­ness,” McDonogh said. She fig­ures that should en­ti­tle the com­pany to spe­cial con­sid­er­a­tion.

She has a point. Capt. Mag­gie her­self is of­ten at the helm of one of the com­pany’s three boats. Or the skip­per might be her 23-year-old son, Sam McDonogh III, named af­ter his great-great­grand­fa­ther. “I grew up on boats,” Sam said.

The at­mos­phere on board is hardly cor­po­rate. Mag­gie seems to know many of the pas­sen­gers on a first-name ba­sis, and on one trip the other day, pas­sen­gers of­fered her some leftover pic­nic eats and choco­late cake.

“Peo­ple love to go back and forth to An­gel Is­land, which is so very in­ter­est­ing,” McDonogh said. “We make peo­ple happy for a liv­ing. And this,” she said, wav­ing her arms around the wheel­house of the fer­ry­boat An­gel Is­land, “this is my of­fice.”

Al­most all the pas­sen­gers are day-trip­pers to the is­land for a pic­nic or a hike. Be­tween 55,000 and 70,000 ride from Tiburon ev­ery year on McDonogh’s boats. But some of the pas­sen­gers are park staff, or some of the 30 or so peo­ple who live on An­gel Is­land full time.

If McDonogh loses the con­tract, things will be a bit dif­fer­ent. Fam­i­lies don’t like change, but change is in the air.

The trou­ble be­gan when the state of­fered a con­tract with what Mag­gie McDonogh con­sid­ered oner­ous con­di­tions and im­pos­si­ble de­mands. Among the con­di­tions was a stip­u­la­tion that the ferry op­er­a­tor had to main­tain a dock on An­gel Is­land and build a hand­i­capped-ac­ces­si­ble dock for state park staff in Tiburon, a project that McDonogh says would cost $1.8 mil­lion.

The McDonoghs have been feuding with the state for a decade over the con­tract terms. “This is not my first rodeo with the state parks,” McDonogh said. When a new RFP was of­fered this year, she re­fused to bid on it.

But Blue & Gold Fleet did af­ter tak­ing what the com­pany’s pres­i­dent, Pa­trick Mur­phy, called “a hard look” at the con­tract. Blue & Gold is the only bid­der for the An­gel Is­land-Tiburon ser­vice.

McDonogh isn’t giv­ing up with­out a fight. The An­gel Is­land Tiburon Ferry Co. has a pe­ti­tion go­ing, ask­ing that the state re­con­sider its bid process. She has lined up po­lit­i­cal sup­port, from the mayor of Tiburon to the lo­cal leg­isla­tive delegation in Sacra­mento. She is also plan­ning a me­dia blitz. It’s Capt. Mag­gie against the state.

It is a one-sided bat­tle. The state De­part­ment of Parks and Re­cre­ation re­fuses to fight. “It is un­known at this time how long the re­view process will last or its out­come,” spokes­woman Glo­ria San­doval said in an email.

For her part, McDonogh says she’ll con­tinue to op­er­ate the ferry ser­vice, con­tract or no con­tract.

“I’m still go­ing,” she said, “and we will still be go­ing.”

Photos by Paul Chinn / The Chron­i­cle

Capt. Mag­gie McDonogh, who is bat­tling the state, fer­ries pas­sen­gers to An­gel Is­land from Tiburon.

Pas­sen­gers board a ferry at the Tiburon dock, bound for An­gel Is­land. The McDonogh fam­ily has had a state ferry con­tract for nearly 60 years.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.