JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The second passenger pontoon boat the city of Jacksonville ordered from a south Florida company a month ago arrived at a Westside marina on Tuesday, and officials say water taxi service could return to the St. Johns River as early as this weekend.
The boats were ordered last month when the city's existing water taxi vendor ended the service on short notice after its proposal for a contract renewal was denied.
The city tried to cancel its $340,000 purchase after City Council balked at funding the boats out of emergency funds, but the company refused to give the money back. The issue became a political hot potato for the Mayor's Office.
Harry Frisch, the founder of Beaver Street Fisheries, stepped forward to pay for the two boats, saying it would lease them to the city until arrangements could be made for Jacksonville to purchase them.
"So I felt somebody has to do it because it is important for Jacksonville," said Frisch.
Robbie Cunningham, who brokered the deal, said the finances are still being worked out.
"I think that's in the process of being done," said Robbie Cunningham. "I think there is some bureaucratic stuff that needs to be overcome, but all of that is in the works."
The timing of getting the boats in service ferrying passengers across the river is dependent on the boats passing Coast Guard inspection and the city working out insurance and other legal issues.
The Coast Guard told News4Jax on Tuesday afternoon that the inspection is not scheduled. A Jacksonville Beach company is on standby to operate the water taxi service until a permanent company is hired.
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