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Commission: Vendor can continue operation on Sanibel Causeway

By Staff | Mar 25, 2009

Lee County commissioners Tuesday decided to allow a food vendor to continue operating on the Sanibel Causeway for one year, with the option to renew the contract after it expires.

The vendor has already been operating for four months on the causeway, having signed the one-year deal with Lee County Parks and Recreation.

Parks and Rec Deputy Director Barbara Manzo has the authority to authorize vendor contracts for up to one year without the consent of commissioners. The vendor’s presence has reportedly drawn the ire of someone, though the

party remains anonymous.

Bill Hammond of county administration told commissioners that he received a

phone call from the City of Sanibel, saying the city is “unhappy” with the current situation.

Manzo echoed Hammond’s comment, saying the issue came before the board for executive direction.

“It came before the board because (county) administration was concerned about the complaints that came from Sanibel and Commissioner (Bob) Janes had some questions,” Manzo said. “We wanted to ask commissioners if they had any particular direction.”

Sanibel City Manager Judie Zimomra said the city takes no position on the matter, and declined comment.

Janes said he approves of the vendor’s presence on the causeway as long as there is a “sunset provision” that doesn’t allow the vendor to operate indefinitely.

“This would give us a period of time to see if this works … I’m willing to give it a shot,” Janes said.

Chairman Ray Judah expressed concern the vendor would open up the causeway to untold numbers of individuals selling their wares, going as far as calling the causeway a potential “Coney Island.”

Manzo did say other vendors have shown up on the causeway islands in the wake of the original vendor’s arrival, but have all been told to leave. She added that people have always sold their items on the causeway.

“It doesn’t mean people weren’t setting up shop before, it just means that

now one has a contract to do so,” she said.

In the future, a fishing pier is scheduled to be built in on the causeway, which under the the supervision of Lee County. There is no definite time frame for the project, which is now in the design phase. It, too, has found opposition from the City of Sanibel and island Chamber of Commerce officials.

The vendor has eight months left on the current contract. Once the contract is completed, the process of vendor bids may open up.

Commissioner Ray Judah cited an ancient Arab proverb when summing up his feelings on the vendor.

“I think this will allow the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent,” he said.