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Oceanside Sea Center calls on City Council to move forward with harbor lease agreement

OCEANSIDE — Oceanside Sea Center asked the City Council to move forward with the harbor lease agreement, during meeting public comments on Wednesday.

“We’re the right project for Oceanside Harbor, we want you to take action to move the project forward,” Capt. Joe Cacciola, Oceanside Sea Center principal partner, said.

The 2,300-square-foot building and six dock spaces at 315 Harbor Drive are currently occupied by Helgren’s Sportsfishing, which has held the lease for 38 years.

Oceanside opened up the lease to requests for proposals (RFP), and Oceanside Sea Center was told they won the RFP on Sept. 6.

Cacciola said two days later the company was informed there was glitch in the selection process, and have not had a meeting with the city since.

All three partners addressed council on Wednesday to share the benefits of the company, and the need for the full dock and building spaces promised in the RFP.

Oceanside Sea Center is comprised of two boat captains and a nonprofit research group. Each has operated in Oceanside for years. Together they promise to bring sportsfishing, boat tours and education to the harbor.

Partner Ernie Prieto, who owns Chubasco Sportsfishing, said Oceanside Sea Center intends to offer open party sportsfishing, which Helgren’s Sportsfishing claimed would end if the rival company were awarded the lease.

He added education would also be a major component of operations.

“We can make Oceanside Sea Center a destination point at the harbor,” Prieto said. “It’s an opportunity for the city to flourish with environmental education.”

Partner Chugey Sepulveda, research director of the Pfleger Institute of Environmental Research, said the institute has helped state and federal fish management efforts for 20 years, and will continue to do so.

He said the harbor building would be an ideal office space to accommodate public visits and expand education efforts.

“Our goal is to try to keep resources available and accessible in a sustainable fashion,” Sepulveda said.

The City Council did not reply to the public comments. Prior to the meeting Councilman Jack Feller said the city is still in negotiations.

On Sept. 21 Helgren’s Sportsfishing addressed the City Council about the lease.

At that meeting council discussed a lease proposal in closed session with no reportable action. It’s assumed the discussion was about a lease with Oceanside Sea Center.

During the meeting’s public comments close to 30 people voiced support for Helgren’s Sportsfishing to continue its long-standing lease.

Then in late October Michelle Skaggs-Lawrence, city manager, told The Coast News the city put a new offer on the table.

“There is an effort to see if we can have the premises shared by users,” Lawrence said. “Terms have been offered.”

Doug Eddow, city real estate manager, said the notification that Oceanside Sea Center had won the RFP was withdrawn, so a shared lease could be considered.

Oceanside Sea Center did not confirm they were informed of changes.

An update is expected within 60 days.


Curious Harborite January 1, 2017 at 1:16 pm

It would be nice if the city staff would truly do the due diligence necessary to determine if the alleged new company is a viable business/group to bring into the harbor. First off, if anyone has noticed, Captain Joe Caccillo’s vessel has been moved from the Helgrens docks over to the visitors Dolphin dock in front of the EMPTY Coast Guard building. This move I have heard is due to a court order as a result of a lost lawsuit. Anyone one look into the findings of this lost lawsuit and why?

In addition, since this court order move has been done, doesn’t this also mandate that the commercial/vessel for hire activities ciese as well since the Exclusivity still belongs with helgrens? Also, if the Dolphin dock is sufficient enough to dock the Sea Star as well as the additional boat that this group proposes to bring in and the Old Auxiliary Coast Guard buildings sit empty and stagnant, Why not let this new Sea Center group work out of there and see what kind of commitment they really have?

These three (3) entities have never worked together before, nor have they shown any history or record of generating revenue as a whole, why would you remove a proven performer/icon? If not mistaken, this city has already rejected Pflegler and his proposals in the past to conduct business in the harbor, so why now?

I am also curious about the due diligence performed regarding the background of the Pflegler/PIER group regarding the legitimacy of their past, business and personal? The intent to force the Helgrens family and business to give up their office space is very unethical, just like putting the Hatfield and McCoy’s in the same cabin and expect them to get along and or even survive. As mentioned at the previous City Council meeting, would you walk over and inform Dominic of Dominic’s Italian Restaurant that he will have to give up half of his space to Domino’s Pizza or the Rocking Baja Restaurant that they need to do the same to make room for Ablberto’s Mexican food. All in all, there is room for growth, but don’t push out a proven business. If people want to see fish in an aquarium then either go down to Birch Aquarium or by one for the home.

John Ptaszek November 6, 2016 at 7:53 pm

In my opinion. It is time for Helgren’s to move on. The Sea Center submitted their proposal under the guidelines of the city. They were told they would be awarded the lease agreement. Their proposal included a lot more than fishing. It included a research center through a partnership with the Pfleger Institute, educational activities and living exhibits. Their proposal would positively change the harbor area for future generations.
Helgren’s has had 38 years to make similar improvements I believe they anticipated no other bids and were shocked at losing their monopoly on Oceanside fishing.
My question is “Why would the city change the rules of how the proposals would be handled AFTER they were submitted?” How can any future business take this city serious? I have lived in some backwoods towns in South Carolina with “good ol’ boy officialdom” that were more trustworthy. Oceanside will never improve until we get rid of this type of hee-haw leadership and way of doing business.
I believe there is more than just fish stinking here.

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