A discrepancy regarding permitting for food-oriented events led to the cancellation of one of Cedar Creek Grist Mill’s several outings at the building, though both health officials and grist mill volunteers are optimistic the rest of the events can continue after a misunderstanding regarding what can and can’t happen has been cleared up.
The Cedar Creek Grist Mill, located east of Woodland on the south side of the Lewis River, announced on social media May 23 that its upcoming bread and butter event featuring butter churned on-site was canceled. The reason for the cancellation was, according to mill volunteers, a result of a number of requirements from Clark County Public Health that they would have to meet in order to put on the events.
Longtime grist mill volunteer and former Friends of the Cedar Creek Grist Mill President Jeffrey Berry said in the last few months department staff had been giving mill volunteers “all kinds of stipulations” regarding their events — requirements for food to prepared in a commercial kitchen as well as individual packaging, among others.
“We were all under the impression that even with paying for the permit we still weren’t going to be allowed to cook on-site,” Berry said.
According to Clark County Public Health Director Alan Melnick, that wasn’t the case.
Melnick said that looking at correspondence between the department and grist mill volunteers it appeared clear to him that having permits for the events would allow for the events to go on as-is.
“Our staff made it pretty clear that with a permit they could’ve done the things that they wanted to do,” Melnick said. The stipulations that the volunteers said they would need to do only applied if they didn’t go through with permitting.
Berry said the mill had cider pressing events for decades, but it wasn’t until an E. coli scare more recently that the mill elected to have county Public Health involved with inspecting and permitting the event. He said that prior to the grist mill events, the department hadn’t inspected a cider pressing event before, commenting that work on their events “wrote the book” on county code regarding the activity.
“I think that speaks to the fact that we are definitely concerned with health and safety,” Berry remarked.
Berry said last year inspectors new to the department did the permitting for the cider press event and became aware of the other on-site events, raising the question of those activities’ permitting.
According to the grist mill website, there were six events scheduled with five still to go outside of the canceled bread and butter day. Events themed around blueberry pancakes, strawberry shortcake, cornbread, sweets and the apple cider pressing that started it all round out the activities.
Regarding permit costs, Melnick said mill volunteers would need to pay a one-time $585 fee for plan review and a $333 multi-event permit annually. He added that at least two volunteers would need food handler cards, which can be obtained online for $10 apiece.
Melnick said that outside of simply regulating events with potential health impacts, public health officials could also serve as consultants to make sure event organizers were working with best practices.
“We really want them to be successful, but honestly it’s a public safety issue,” Melnick said. “We want everybody to have a good time, but we want it to be safe and we want to avoid any potential for foodborne illness.”
Berry is willing to move past all the confusion. When he spoke to The Reflector it looked like that with permitting the events could continue as planned.
“Regardless of what happened I’m grateful it looks like we’re going to be able to work things out,” Berry said.