City opens up Independence and Liberty bridges to privatization: Inside the bidding process

While it’s not a guaranteed outcome, Bay City has further opened the door to privatizing city-owned Independence and Liberty bridges.

With the City Commission’s recent vote to open up the bidding process to private companies, City Manager Dana Muscott is now tasked with drawing up a Request for Proposals. Muscott estimates a month to complete and issue the RFP and another 45 to 60 days before the submission deadline.

Despite the timeline, Muscott says that multiple companies have called her office as soon as the City Commission approved the RFP process, asking her to put their names on the list of suitors.

Still, there’s a vetting process to go through. United Bridge Partners already expressed interest in purchasing the bridges a couple of years ago, says Muscott. Opening up the bridges to RFPs should mean that Bay City gets the best deal available.

Once the RFP window has closed, companies will pitch their proposals to the City Commission. The commission will then choose their candidate, who will then negotiate the final terms of the deal with Muscott.

"We’re open to the idea of privatization because the City Commission and staff did their due diligence in taking a step back to see if there was any way to find more funding to fix the bridges," Muscott says.

They’ve gone to the state. They’ve gone to the feds. They’ve looked at millages and bonds. The money just isn’t there, says Muscott. Even so, city officials are still looking at different grants in hopes of finding ways to fund the repairs needed.

If privatization does indeed occur, Muscott says that the city will look at all of the different proposals presented to them in order to find the best one. While it’s true that a privately-owned bridge could mean tolls, there are other ways for companies to regain their investment, too. It could be the case that Bay City residents receive free tolls, she says.

It’s too early to say.

"The RFP is just putting it out there to see what’s there," Muscott says.

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