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It's good to see Hernando County's Little Rock Cannery has supporters

Now that we've crippled Hernando County's bus service to save a whopping $142,000, it's time to go after the Little Rock Cannery.

Residents are telling county commissioners they want taxes to pay only for basic services like catching criminals and providing clean water. To them, the idea of a public cannery is as absurd as a county-sponsored sewing circle.

So, that is how this strange situation has come to pass: Commissioners are spending more time talking about the cannery and its annual budget of $55,126 (less than it takes to keep one deputy on the road) than on the big, serious moves needed to address an expected $9.2 million revenue shortfall. Furloughs for county workers, for example.

A month ago, Commissioners Rose Rocco and Jeff Stabins promised to save the cannery but to look for ways to cut the cost to the county.

That's still going on, and the Cooperative Extension Service has found a $10,000 grant that might help.

But now the Commission has moved on to looking for someone else to run the facility, one of only three public canneries in the state.

The most promising candidate so far is Keely Smith, a Spring Hill veterinarian who will present a plan at Tuesday's commission meeting to lease the cannery and run it as a private nonprofit organization.

There is something gratifying in all this, at least to people like me who believe the cannery does serve a legitimate public function.

Because of the economy and the increased interest in eating locally, more people than ever are signing up to use the cannery and they are canning more often, said supervisor Flossie Raines; both times I've been there, the place has been packed.

Without the cannery, some users might have to go on food stamps. They certainly wouldn't eat as well as they do now, because cheap food is often heavily subsidized junk.

They wouldn't pass on the habit of caring about where their meals come from to children and grandchildren.

They wouldn't be offering these kids a close-up view of local farmers, who are the source of much of the fruits and vegetables preserved at the cannery.

And they wouldn't be giving a boost, however small, to one of the most worthy segments of the local economy: agriculture.

You may ask, if commissioners don't want the county to pay for the cannery, why do I find their actions gratifying?

Because none of them wants to close it, and most of them see its value as clearly as I do.

So do many other residents who have stepped up in opposition to all those cannery-hating voices.

Especially Smith, who is not only offering to maintain the facility's current services but wants it to branch out to, for example, preserving food for nearby homeless shelters, said commission Chairman David Russell.

This sounds perfect. We keep a local treasure and pay nothing.

And if Smith can prove she has a long-term plan to raise enough money to operate the cannery, and if this doesn't include sky-high user fees that defeat the cannery's purpose of helping people get by, and if she can prove she will take good care of the historic cannery building, well, yes, I guess the commission should take her up on her offer and cut the cannery out its budget.

Then they'll just have to worry about the other $9,143,874.

It's good to see Hernando County's Little Rock Cannery has supporters 07/09/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 9, 2009 7:01pm]
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