City Leaders vote for a new study for whitewater center

City Leaders vote for a new study for whitewater center
City Leaders vote to pay for study to potentially turn the Lock & Dam into a White Water Center

City Leaders are changing their plans when it comes to that possible whitewater center at the Savannah Lock and Dam. Instead of just choosing a firm to create the center, it wants to open bidding and expand the project.

Just a week ago, it seemed like the plans were all finalized. Pay a private firm $15,000, it would then create a design for a whitewater center for the aging lock & dam. It would also give the city a bargaining chip by letting the Army Corps of Engineers come in and do what they want with the site.

The Corps will be presenting its plan by late summer for the lock. On Tuesday some say commissioners complicated the process.

"It would have been nice to know that there was a thought that we needed to go through the procurement process before now. It leaves us in a little bit of weird position," says Tonya Bonitatibus, the Savannah Riverkeeper.

Leaders voted 8-1 to open a bid process for qualified firms to create bigger concepts for the site by keeping the whitewater center idea and adding other activities. That will be making the Corps deadline much tighter to meet.

"That was my initial reaction. Why are we having this conversation now and why wasn't it brought up two weeks ago when we started having this conversation? It's just disappointing," says Commissioner Sean Frantom.

The Commission also upped the concept pay for the winning bid to nearly $30,000. "The worst thing that can happen is we spend this money and we're not ready. Then the Corps comes out with their project and says 'Okay you have 45 days to tell us what you want,' and we say 'just kidding, we haven't finished the process yet'," says Bonitatibus.

It's something that caught the Riverkeeper off guard but she's still hopeful this can get finished by the deadline, no matter who the firm is creating the next big attraction here. "It's not the end of the game by any means but it's just one more cog in the wheel to hopefully get us there, where we need to be."

The Procurement process can take up to two weeks according to city officials.

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