County opts for certified kitchen

News editor

Marion County took a step Monday toward opening a certified commercial kitchen that would help give a leg-up to entrepreneurs who want to start food-based businesses in the county.

The county commission gave Economic Development Director Teresa Huffman approval to pursue grants to convert one of the kitchens at the county lake hall into a certified kitchen — that requires substantial replacement, installation, and updating of fixtures and equipment, including no less than five sinks, Huffman said.

For someone looking to build a certified kitchen from scratch, it can cost as much as $100,000, Huffman said. She is going to pursue available grants of $70,000 and $25,000 to get the kitchen up and running.

Commission Chairman Randy Dallke said he didn’t think Huffman would have enough time to manage the kitchen and keep up with all of her other duties. Huffman agreed and said that was why she would seek hiring someone part-time to manage and promote it. Such a person would be paid with revenue from renting the kitchen out to entrepreneurs, as well as providing classes.

Commissioner Roger Fleming said he thought the idea had merit, but questioned what would happen to it after the grants were gone and equipment needed to be replaced or updated. Huffman said the goal would be to set aside rent and class revenue for that purpose.

Fleming said he would also like to track, if possible, what percentage of ingredients used in the kitchen were bought in Marion County.

In other business:

  • Merle D. Fleming and DeLayne R. Herbel were appointed to the Lehigh Township board as treasurer and clerk, respectively, after volunteering.
  • County Clerk Tina Spencer met with the commission in closed session for five minutes to discuss personnel. No action was taken on return to open session.
  • The county will retain Don McMican for engineering work for courthouse structural repairs, not to exceed $46,000.
  • Road and Bridge Department will purchase 8,000 gallons of fuel from Cooperative Grain & Supply of Hillsboro for $27,427. Cardie Oil Inc. of Tampa bid $27,786.
  • Road and Bridge Superintendent Randy Crawford met with the commission in closed session for 20 minutes to discuss personnel. No action was taken on return to open session.
  • The commission instructed Crawford to file a complaint at the sheriff’s office about someone repeatedly knocking over signs to get combine headers down a county road. The commission said the farmer has a long history of doing so and has been defiant.

The next commission meeting will be Tuesday.

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