Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Look at What's Back Afloat; Downtown Water Taxis Pass Inspection Just in Time for Jaguars' Preseason Opener

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Look at What's Back Afloat; Downtown Water Taxis Pass Inspection Just in Time for Jaguars' Preseason Opener

Article excerpt

Byline: Steve Patterson

Two water taxis will start operating again in downtown Jacksonville on Friday after passing a U.S. Coast Guard inspection.

The service has been shut down since early June when the former water taxi operator closed its operation.

"The boats are in good shape," said Lt. Cmdr. Marc Montemerlo, inspection chief for the agency in Mayport.

The Coast Guard's blessing means the boats - one built to carry 100 people, the other 50 - will be in service in time for the first preseason Jaguars game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Service Friday will start at 4:30 p.m. and continue three hours after the game ends.

The boats will normally run from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, said Ron Hilliard, operations director for Lakeshore Marine LLC, the company the city contracted to run the boats for up to six months. Where longer hours are needed during football season, the boats will start operating three hours before game time and continue three hours after the game ends, Hilliard said.

The city initially wanted to start the boats running in June, when the company that formerly operated river taxis closed its Jacksonville operation.

The city paid $338,500 in June to get the boats from Trident Pontoons, a Tavares company, then demanded its money back after city lawyers said the purchase wasn't lawful because the City Council hadn't appropriated money for the deal.

Trident balked at that demand, but Beaver Street Fisheries Chairman Harry Frisch then agreed to pay for the boats so the city could get its refund.

A Frisch representative later said the businessman planned to sell the boats again after six months, once a company had been contracted to operate the service long-term.

Lakeshore ranked first among companies that bid for the long-term contract, but Hilliard said the company has been focused on getting the short-term service started in time for football season. …

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