By COLLIN BROOKS
The Washington County Cannery will not be opening for this season or in the near future, according to Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge.
Since the passing of cannery director Bob Mills in March, the county has no one to step in to fill his position. Mills oversaw the day-to-day operations of the cannery for almost two decades.
When someone finally did volunteer, an individual who was not affiliated with the county, the county’s insurance company was called and the insurance company shut down the operation.
“I understand that this facility has been an important part of your community. Unfortunately, the litigious society we live in today makes this operation a dangerous and costly risk if an injury occurred,” Director of Member Services for Local Government Insurance Poll Becky Brock said in an email to Eldridge, which he included in his August Mayor’s Report to the Commission. “Because of that, it is our strong recommendation to discontinue this operation.”
Eldridge said that the county paid close to $35,000 per year to keep the cannery running and he was not pleased to have to close it, but he said he hopes that it won’t affect too many people.
“What it was more than anything else was a convenience,” Eldridge said. “It currently wasn’t a necessity for anybody, but it was a convenience for churches and individuals, particularly on that side of the county.”
The mayor said that he wouldn’t rule out the cannery returning. But it wouldn’t be coming back in its existing form, he said.
“Coming back as a certified and inspected kitchen, I would like to see us do that,” he said. “Doing that probably means another location, but doing it also in a way that we can really expand the availability of it.”
The cannery was located in the former Telford School building at 101 Telford School Road, which was built in 1939 and closed in the 1970s. The building opened as the cannery sometime in the 1980s as a program set up by the government to aid people who didn’t have the facilities or the money to conduct canning jobs.
People were allowed to bring their products in where they could be canned for a nominal fee.
There aren’t many alternatives in the area for people looking to can, but the Washington County Extension Office does offer their “Canning College” to patrons during the summer months.