OCEAN CITY — Providing further evidence the beach photography business continues to be challenging, just one vendor came forward this week when the bids were opened for Ocean City’s franchise.
Ocean City’s beach photography franchise is essentially divided into two separate franchises and under the town’s code, one vendor can hold both franchises. By way of background, the beach photography franchise holder sends photographers, or “scopers,” out on the beach each day in the summer to solicit residents and visitors to capture vacation memories.
The franchises are renewed every four years and the same vendor has held both franchises for the last eight years. The current contract expired at the end of November and a new four-year contract was offered for both. On Monday, the Mayor and Council were scheduled to open the bids for, but City Clerk Diana Chavis explained there was little interest.
“We have just one bid,” she said. “It has been our policy not to accept just one bid unless the council elects to do so.”
Chavis explained the bid packet was posted on the town’s government website and distributed on-line via eMaryland Marketplace. It was also advertised on different occasions in the local newspaper of record.
“As a courtesy, it was also forwarded to the recent franchise holder and each beach equipment rental franchise holder,” said Chavis. “After all that, we still ended up with just one bid.”
Breaking from town policy somewhat, Councilman Matt James made a motion to acknowledge the single bid and remand it to the staff for further review. That motion was approved unanimously by the council.
“What other option do we have?” he said. “I guess we could reject this and rebid it, but I don’t know if that would change anything.”
The lone bid was opened and came in with a one-year offer for $152,500. The bid is for a four-year contract, bringing the total value of the offer to $610,000 for the next four years. Chavis pointed out the lone bid was just for one of the town’s two franchises.
“This is for one franchise,” she said. “We offered two franchises and each is allowed to have 16 photographers out on the beach.”
In the end, the council voted unanimously to accept the lone bid for one of the franchises and advertise and rebid the second franchise. It’s important to note up until 2010, the minimum acceptable bid for one of the franchises was $300,000, but that minimum was cut in half to $150,000 when it became apparent the business had become increasingly challenging, likely due to the proliferation of cell phones and digital cameras.