Delay casts a shadow on umbrella vendor

A woman who works at Archibald Memorial Beach Park must wait until federal officials okay a contract.

Published February 18, 2007

MADEIRA BEACH - It has been nine months since Howard Henning died of a heart attack and his longtime girlfriend, Jane Lattimore, took over his business renting chairs and umbrellas to sun-hungry tourists.

But since October, tourists and locals looking to lounge in the shade at Archibald Memorial Beach Park have had to bring their own beach gear.

City officials closed the stand in October to open up the concession stand contract for bidding. Lattimore was named the winner of the bidding process in January, and city officials sent the contract to the federal National Park Service for final approval.

Federal officials have not responded to the project, and last week they said it could take up to two more months before they give their okay.

That's bad news for Lattimore, who has essentially been out of a job since October.

She had helped Henning run the stand for nearly 10 years and vowed to continue it after he died in tribute to him.

The closed stand also doesn't fare well for the city, because the stand will be defunct during much of Madeira Beach's tourist season, which peaks in February.

City manager Jill Silverboard said she has received numerous queries and complaints about the stand and has tried to push the National Park Service to speed up the approval process.

"We tried to impress upon them that tourism season is right here," Silverboard said. "We even said it is, for all intents and purposes, the exact same agreement you approved last year."

Business agreements regarding Archibald Park must be approved by federal officials because of an agreement made when the Archibald family first donated the land.

In 2006, Madeira Beach ended up paying $500,000 in a lawsuit settlement to a restaurateur who had been awarded a contract by the city to set up a restaurant at the park. The Archibald family complained, and the contract had to be canceled.

But for Lattimore, who only wants to continue her livelihood and hang out on the beach with the tourists she has come to know by name, patiently waiting has been difficult.

"It's just not right," she said. "This is just taking too long."

Cristina Silva can be reached at 727 893-8846 or csilva@sptimes.com.