Cape Elizabeth council OKs vendor program at Fort Williams Park

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The Town Council approved a pilot program Monday night for food vendors at Fort Williams Park.

Interested vendors have until 2 p.m. on April 8 to submit proposals. They could be set up and serving food as early as May 1.

Bill Hewitt, a Cape Elizabeth resident and former owner of Rosemont Pharmacy in Portland, told the council he has a vending license and would like to participate.

The Fort Williams Advisory Commission voted 4-1 on March 17 to move the proposal to the council. Member Dan Chase opposed the decision. He said allowing food vendors would change the way people use the park.

“Before, people were encouraged to people to bring picnics, use the grills and cook for themselves. It was a carry- in, carry- out system,” he said. “This vendor idea changes that to ‘let’s run down and buy something quick and leave the trash.'”

Chase also said the vendors will be in direct competition with stores along Shore Road in Cape Elizabeth and Cottage Road in South Portland.

“I realize the need to raise money to take better care of (the fort),” he said. “But, I thought there could be a way to make more of a community type thing rather than a competition.”

There are three sites identified for food vendors in the park. Site A is near the walkway from Battery Blair to Portland Head Light. Site B is near the bus drop-off area. A and B each have two permit options – one from May 1 to Aug. 31, and another from Sept. 1 to Oct. 31. Site C is near the flagpole and is available from from May 1 to Oct. 31.

Bill Nickerson, chairman of the Fort Williams Advisory Committee, said this arrangement will maximize revenue.

“There are two separate seasons: tourists and cruise ships,” Nickerson said. “The vendor could pay $4,000 for two permits at the same site.”

The proposal states that the minimum fee for each permit is $2,000, but vendors who place a bid with the town can offer more than the minimum amount, Nickerson said. Vendors are also encouraged to be creative in their proposals.

Town Manager Michael McGovern said the pilot program was created to be flexible, and does not guarantee a program next year or offer future preference to vendors who are selected this year. Consideration may be given to a Cape Elizabeth resident, he said, if all other factors are equal.

“The program is deliberately kept open for those in the vending world to be creative and make it work for them,” McGovern said.

Vendors will have to report their earnings to the council at the end of the season.

Interested vendors have to satisfy seven criteria. McGovern will consult with a committee made up of Councilor Jim Walsh, Public Works Director Bob Malley and Fort Williams Advisory Commission members Erin Grady and Bill Brownell to pick the vendors.

“We want this to work for folks,” McGovern said.

Hewitt told the council he sold hot dogs from a pushcart in Portland and thinks the Fort Williams program will be a good opportunity for his son Chase and other Cape Elizabeth High School students.

“I employed my daughter and eight girls from Cape to work (the cart), and they learned a lot about business,” Hewitt said.

Hewitt said running a cart teaches students responsibility, how to order food, take inventory, manage finances and interact with the public. He said if his proposal is selected, his son and other high school students are willing to operate the cart over the summer.

“I enter this fully knowing I have a slim chance against others, but I’ve been there and done it,” Hewitt said. “I might not make as much as some of the other vendors who sell lobster rolls, but what I gain is the joy and employment opportunity.”

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or