MIDDLETOWN -- As the summer beach season quickly approaches, a technicality in Middletown's solicitation for surfboard rentals at Second Beach has prompted town officials to rebid the opportunity to operate a surfboard rental business out of the surfer's end of Second Beach.
Town Council members had been poised to award a coveted five-year deal to allow a single vendor to set up shop at what might be the area's most popular surf spot at their April 16 meeting.
Two companies bid on the opportunity: Island Surf, which has been the vendor of choice at the beach for the past several years, and the up and coming, Rhody Surf, Inc. Both submitted sealed bids along with supporting documentation detailing their respective businesses.
According to a memo from the town's Finance Department, Rhody Surf indicated that it was prepared to pay the town $8,000 a year over the life the contract, or $40,000 total.
Island Surf proposed to pay $7,600 a year, or $2,500 less than what Rhody Surf had proposed over the same five-year period.
Initially, Town Recreation Director Timothy L. Shaw recommended the town award the contract to the high bidder.
"Through reviewing their proposal and references I have learned that Rhody Surf Inc., which is based in Newport is an up and coming local company that specializes in lessons, and they have recently been recognized in Rhode Island Monthly's Best Of edition for their lessons," Shaw wrote. Since then, the company has also been recognized by Yankee Magazine as one of their picks for New England's Best of 2012 surf lessons.
Symon Cousens, who owns Island Sports and the nearby Elemental Surf and Skate, has been operating out of Second Beach for 15 out of the last 16 years.
Though he feels like he did what was asked of him as outlined in the 27-page bid package, Cousens said that he was told there was an inconsistency in his proposal.
Meanwhile, Rhody Surf's application also ran headlong into a technicality.
According to the RFP that was issued by the town earlier this year, qualifying applicants were required to have a minimum of three years of experience.
However, records on file with the Secretary of State's Office shows that Rhody Surf has only been incorporated for just over one year.
According to proprietor Bobby Drought, Rhody Surf was formally incorporated in January 2011 after increased demand prompted Drought to make what he described as his "10-year labor of love" offering private surf lessons around Aquidneck Island into a full-time business.
However, after being notified of a request by Island Sports to reconsider the award, town councilors opted to continue the matter.
Neither Drought or Cousens are certain when the contract, which had been scheduled to run from May 1 - Oct. 1, will begin. However, they've been told that the bid package is currently being rewritten and should be reissued sometime soon.
In the meantime, surfers looking to rent a board will have to do so away from the beach.