Plan to settle blind vendor dispute is rejected

April 23, 1995|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

A Ruppersberger administration proposal to settle a dispute over management of a cafeteria in Baltimore County's old courthouse has been rejected by the state's blind vendor program.

The dispute stems from the March 30 death of Lou Hanes, blind manager of the Graceland Cafeteria, and the hopes of his sighted widow to continue running the operation. Her aspirations conflict with plans by Maryland's training program to install a new blind vendor by June.

State education officials rejected on Wednesday County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III's idea of making widow Betty Lou Hanes a partner in the cafe with a new blind manager, Kenneth Canterberry.

Maryland and federal laws, the state and other blind vendors say, require that only blind people trained by the state program operate the food concessions in public buildings. With a 70 percent unemployment rate among blind people, the vendors don't want to give up the location to Mrs. Hanes -- who depends on the cafe for her livelihood.

They also do not want it run by Mr. Canterberry, 46, who operates a hot dog stand outside the Dundalk post office, because he is not one of the Maryland program's trainees.

Ralph Sanders, a blind vendor representing the Maryland Committee of Blind Vendors, had threatened to picket the old courthouse, now occupied by county offices -- including those of the council and Mr. Ruppersberger -- and connected by a tunnel to the county office building.

Mr. Sanders and Robert A. Burns, assistant state school superintendent in charge of rehabilitative services, said the laws and state regulations of the vendor program precluded the choice of Mr. Canterberry. Choosing an operator who is not on the waiting list of trained blind vendors likely would spawn lawsuits from other blind vendors, Mr. Sanders said.

Mr. Ruppersberger said he expects to make a decision early this week.

With the rejection of Mr. Ruppersberger's proposal, the county's options appeared to be unchanged since the death of Mr. Hanes. They are to:

* Break the lease with the state and give the concession to Betty Lou Hanes.

* Allow Maryland's Division of Rehabilitative Services to replace Mrs. Hanes.

* Craft an arrangement guaranteeing that Mrs. Hanes, 52, and perhaps her daughter, Grace Zellner, 30, who also works in the cafe, continue to have jobs there under a new blind vendor.

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