Snow Hill Issues RFP For Black-Eyed Susan Riverboat

Snow Hill Issues RFP For Black-Eyed Susan Riverboat
The Black-Eyed Susan riverboat is pictured in Snow Hill at its berth. File photo by Charlene Sharpe

SNOW HILL – The Town of Snow Hill is seeking proposals for the purchase of its riverboat.

Interested parties have until Oct. 3 to submit proposals for the purchase of the Black-Eyed Susan, the stern-wheeler paddleboat the town bought in 2020.

Though officials initially talked about selling the boat in early 2023, they realized recently they had to go through the RFP (request for proposals) process.

“Once we had a local attorney on board for routine legal advice, we discovered that some of what we’ve been doing over the years has not been strictly by the book,” Town Manager Rick Pollitt said. “On her advice, we have issued formal Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for purchase of the Black-Eyed Susan.  Sealed bids are due in my office by 4 p.m. on Tuesday, October 3rd where they will be opened publicly and the bidder’s name read aloud.  Staff will then take any proposals received and review them thoroughly before making a recommendation to the Mayor & Council for an Award of Bid.”

In 2020, the town purchased the Black-Eyed Susan, a 149-passenger riverboat, with the help of a $400,000 loan from Worcester County. The boat had a successful season running up and down the Pocomoke River in 2021 but a mandatory inspection in 2022, however, revealed that the vessel needed extensive repairs in order to resume cruises. The inspection revealed numerous repairs, estimated at $600,000, were needed. As a result, the Black-Eyed Susan has been docked ever since.

The town made it clear in this month’s request for proposals that the boat was being sold in as-is condition.

“With full transparency, the Town advises that the boat was purchased near the end of an active Coast Guard operating permit and that as part of the renewal process for that permit, serious deficiencies in the boat’s structure were discovered,” the RFP reads. “The Black-Eyed Susan was constructed in 1989 as a working stern-wheeled paddleboat featuring two decks for public enjoyment in a Victorian-decorated interior.  In 2003, the boat’s length was extended from 87 feet to 111 feet.  It draws 4 feet of water and is equipped with galley, restrooms and wet bars.”

Attached to the RFP is the Coast Guard Inspection report as well as the estimate from Colonna Shipyard of Norfolk, Va., detailing the cost of restoring the boat to permitting capacity.

“Note that during the past year, those cost estimates have likely increased substantially,” the RFP reads. “Other specifications and material related to the boat is available upon request.  The Mayor and Town Council have determined that the expense of repairing the boat, coupled with the estimated annual cost of maintenance and repair, have made continuing to own and operate the Black-Eyed Susan not in the best interests of the taxpayers and residents of Snow Hill.”

The town will accept bids until 4 p.m. on Oct. 3. Pollitt said staff would spend the days after that reviewing the proposals. He hopes to have a recommendation for town officials at the regularly scheduled Oct. 10 meeting.

Pollitt acknowledged the parties that were interested in purchasing the boat earlier this year.

“I did send RFPs directly to each party that had previously indicated interest in the boat, so I am hopeful that we will receive more than one bid,” he said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.