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Potsdam councilwoman voices opposition to community kitchen changes in fiery discussion

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POTSDAM - The possibility of the Potsdam community kitchen opening its doors to small businesses has drawn sharp criticism from one town official.

Councilwoman Judith R. Rich spoke out against the idea during Tuesday’s monthly board meeting.

Town Clerk Cindy L. Goliber provided board members with a Watertown Daily Times article from September 2013, detailing a community-shared kitchen that was opened in Jefferson County.

“Just for your information, (our) full kitchen including the stove has only been used three times; the kitchen excluding the stove, since we’ve been here in March, has only been used four times, and we have received many inquiries from home processors who want to rent the facility,” Town Supervisor Marie C. Regan said. “They would be responsible for obtaining their own permits. We’ve had officials from health agencies come here to certify that our kitchen meets their (requirements.) The only thing they’d want us to is to put up a soap dispenser and a paper towel (dispenser) near the extra sink.”

The Sackets Harbor located kitchen is 1,500 square feet and the partnership allows food processors to “package, market and sell a range of products at bakeries, grocery stores and wholesale food manufacturers,” according to the article.

It is also available to rent 24 hours a day from Sunday through Thursday.

“I read this and this is not a similar situation to our situation. In this, there’s a private owner who owns this, got the thing certified with Ag & Markets, and now is happily renting it out. It’s not a town office. It’s a private person,” Ms. Rich said. “I’m really opposed to this.”

The new town hall opened in January 2013 and houses both a community room and kitchen that are rented out for private events.

For now, the kitchen can be rented only for events.

“Things to consider - hours of operation. That’s a biggie. I mean everybody goes home at a certain time right?” Ms. Rich said. “Trash removal, that’s a biggie. Cleaning, that’s a biggie. Insurance - insurance for if someone gets hurts preparing something - are we insured for that?”

“Yes we are,” Ms. Regan responded.

“If somebody gets hurt they could sue us even if we’re insured. I don’t want to spend any of my time talking about it ,and I think this is a can of worms. I don’t think we should have built (the kitchen) in the first place quite frankly,” Ms. Rich said.

Councilwoman Rosemaria Rivezzi on the other hand was in support of the idea.

“I think there are other townships that also have them. I think maybe we can look into it ,but I’m sure that there are other townships that do run them,” she said. “I think now that (the kitchen) is here, we need to find a way to make it more available to the public to use and I think we can still do that.”

Each business would be responsible for applying a Food Processing License through Ag & Markets, which is officially called 20c Kitchen. The cost of those is $400 and is valid for two years, town officials said.

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