A special Monday night meeting to decide whether the city of Petoskey should agree to allow private vendors for Bayfront Park and a white-water kayak concession in the Bear River Valley Recreation Area ended in a split, with votes approving one resolution and failing the other.
City officials had previously put off taking any action on the proposed vendor licenses after questions about the legality of using private concessions under the city charter during the Feb. 22 meeting.
However, the council had sought legal advice and felt confident in making votes Monday night.
"The city council has received confidential legal opinions on the matter," said Petoskey Mayor Ted Pall. "I'm quite sure everyone's looked at those, examined those and will be using those as the basis for making decisions."
Dan Ralley, Petoskey city manager, clarified later that those opinions had been formulated by city legal counsel Jim Murray and Richard Smith, a former city attorney. Ralley reiterated to the News-Review the opinion was confidential and did not have to be released to the public based on its attorney-client relationship, unless council members requested it to be made public.
The Bayfront Park concession stand, located near Ed White Field, was operated by the area Fast Pitch Softball Association, but the association has indicated it no longer wants to operate the space.
Vendors Johan's Pastry Shop, The Bob-In Again and Big Apple Bagels all placed bids to operate the Bayfront Park concessions for the city. Johan's was identified as the accepted bid, previous to Monday.
Johan's will pay the city a $1,000 base lease fee and 2 percent of gross sales. It has been previously indicated that Johan's plans to have an expanded menu beyond traditional baseball game food such as soda, popcorn and hot dogs. Items could include breakfast items and sandwiches.
Removed from the license agreement is the use of a resource room, currently used for historical material about the city and park.
A resolution to authorize the mayor and city clerk to enter into a concession license for the concession stand was approved by a 4-1 vote. City Councilman Ron Marshall voted no.
A second resolution to approve Big Bear Adventures, who own a kayak livery in Indian River, to provide kayaks on the Bear River Valley failed.
The company, according to the council's background information, has provided more than 600,000 guests with canoe and kayak rentals on the Sturgeon River during its 30 years in business.
First mentioned in 2007, the city parks master plan referenced a rental location for canoe and kayak rental in the revamped river valley. The city has spent about $225,000 for white-water improvements on the river, Ralley said.
Boats and passengers would likely trailer boats upstream from a base of operations near the restrooms south of the Mitchell Street bridge.
Within the limitations of the proposed lease, Big Bear would have been able to operate from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
While much of the discussion centered around the kayak rental providing a first line of liability insurance for any potential lawsuit against the city, there was some questions about how parking for the concessions might be handled in the future.
"I think before today most of the discussion has been on the charter; we really haven't had discussions about the logistics of how this would work," said Petoskey City Council member Bill Atkins.
Atkins said should the resolution pass, the city would have to address those issues.
Speaking during the public comment period, Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce president Carlin Smith said his members are fully supportive of a kayak vendor being added to the Bear River area.
"The chamber is supportive of this. We see it as a great amenity, not only for Petoskey guests who we like to entertain, but also our residents," Smith said.
However, the motion failed to gain the votes to pass.
Pall and Marshall voted yes. Voting no were council members Bob Johnson, Tom Postelnick and Atkins.
After the meeting, Atkins told the News-Review the confidential legal council opinion was the determining factor in his and likely other members' votes.