The McNasby seafood processing plant in the Eastport section of Annapolis has the last piece of financing it needs to reopen.
And to celebrate, the Maryland Watermen's Cooperative will throw an all-day party on Saturday, April 27.
"We're saying 'thank you' to the community and all the people whohave supported us," said Andrew Kaelin, manager of the co-op. "Just surviving the winter was a major achievement."
The plant, which closed in 1987, was reopened as a watermen's cooperative in November 1989, after the city bought the plant for $1.2 million.
The retail division and the back loading dock reopened for watermen to sell theircatches. But state health inspectors have refused to allow the processing operation to reopen until it meets sanitation standards.
Thecity now has the financing it needs to make the improvements and reopen the plant. The city obtained $150,000 in low-interest loans from the state Department of Economic and Employment Development and the county Office of Economic Development, said Annapolis Senior Planner Mary Burkholder.
The city must contribute $15,000 toward renovations, and watermen have been demolishing the inside of the processing plant by themselves. Renovations ordered by the state include installation of a sprinkler, new restrooms and showers and flooring.
The City Council's Finance Committee was expected to approve the financial package last night, said Alderman Ellen O. Moyer, D-Ward 8, a committee member who proposed the McNasby project three years ago. The City Council will consider the agreement next week.
The co-op has been losing money without the processing operation, which Kaelin said he hopes will reopen by August. With warmer weather and a working processing plant, Kaelin said the co-op should begin turning a profit.
Several Annapolis restaurants and hotels already purchase their seafood from the co-op. At its retail store, the co-op sells rockfish, catfish, perch, crabs, oysters, soft-shell crabs, clams and shrimp. Saleshave reached $50,000 a month, slightly less than the co-op's operating expenses.
Kaelin, who operated a 1,500-acre shrimp farm in Panama before coming to Annapolis last June, has big plans for the processing plant. The co-op will process crabs and oysters. Members will cook and quick-freeze crabs to sell in other parts of the nation and the world.
The co-op will enable watermen to have more influence in the market, Kaelin said, rather than having prices dictated to them. The 54-member co-op, financed by a $45,000 loan and new members' fees, is the only one of its kind in the state.
"I have high hopes forthis place," Kaelin said.
The celebration on April 27 will begin at 11 a.m. A park and watermen's museum behind the plant will be dedicated. At 2 p.m., Second Street will be closed and the co-op and other groups will sell food and beer. Rock, jazz and other bands will play on the platform at the end of the street. The party will run until9 p.m., and Kaelin said there will be "dancing in the streets."
The event is called "Dance 'Till the Crabs Come Home."
The co-op's retail store is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays though Saturdaysand from noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.