In a county searching for more budget cuts, Hernando commissioners correctly indulged some unexpected spending last week to try to preserve a cherished piece of Americana.
Commissioners unanimously agreed to finance a temporary lifeline for the Little Rock Cannery after learning its current tenant had no desire to extend its lease beyond Oct. 1. That pullout left few options other than finding a new tenant, shuttering the facility or selling the property.
It's a familiar dilemma. The cannery, housed in a stone schoolhouse that dates to the New Deal, began operating as a food-preparation facility in the 1970s.
For a modest fee, people can use the commercial-grade kitchen equipment to can fresh fruits and vegetables.
But, the $60,000 annual subsidy from the county became a luxury the commission said it could no longer afford amid annual budget crunches.
Since 2009, the cannery remained open only through sizable private contributions and then a two-year lease with the Auroveda Foundation.
The foundation recently told the county it would be ending its operations even though a separate group, the Leadership Hernando class of 2013, had planned an October marketing and fund-raising event to increase public awareness of the cannery's capabilities.
The commission is now asking volunteers to develop a business plan to keep the facility operating with a promise of a three-month, $15,000 stop-gap allocation from the county. The commission's financial commitment is particularly noteworthy because it came just hours before commissioners ordered more than $500,000 worth of unspecified cuts to the 2014 budget that begins Oct. 1.
Renee Oij, of the Hernando Leadership class of 2013, correctly characterized the Little Rock Cannery as enriched with a tradition that builds an immediate sense of community among the people who use it.
The commission was correct to try to save the facility, but it is now incumbent upon cannery advocates to do likewise to preserve this unique community asset.