Last updateTue, 24 Nov 2015 12am


Nations Park opening pushed to April


By all appearances, construction on Newberry’s Nations Park baseball complex is complete.  However, the grand opening event has been rescheduled to next April to allow for improvements to fencing and landscaping and increased airflow through the spectator facility, which may also see additional bleachers.

NEWBERRY – Construction on Newberry’s Nations Park baseball complex is currently under budget with a few loose ends to tie up, said City Manager Keith Ashby. These loose ends have postponed the planned November grand opening after feedback about the complex revealed some modifications and improvements were in order.

Updated plans call for Nations Park baseball complex to open with an April ceremony that consists of two week-long tournaments over the Easter holiday.

“Nations Park is the best park in the country right now,” said Lou Presutti, who administrates the park’s streamlining. “It’s state of the art.” The park is modeled after New York’s Cooperstown Dreams Park that he founded. The hope is that Nations will also draw crowds from around the country for its youth baseball program.

Teams and the public that attended the test tournament at Nations Baseball praised the fields and the playing conditions, but there a number of comments that the spectator area needs upgrades.

“We just have to tweak these little things to make it even nicer,” Presutti said about the ongoing construction.

“People are really excited about all of it,” he said.

“The Internet site dedicated to marketing the park gets over 100,000 hits a month.

“The park is going to be something very special for this country,” Presutti said.

Presutti is “operating the park on behalf of the city,” Ashby said, “It’s a national venture and the first of its kind outside of Dreams Park.”

Significant improvements will be made to ensure more airflow through the spectator facility. “It’s hot as a pistol in there,” Ashby said. Improvements will include cutting down the back wall to waist level height, creating a back entrance to help with space and movement, and installing ceiling fans. And possibly, three new bleachers will be added to one of the outfields.

Aesthetics are also a concern, so new fencing for the front of the complex will be built along 30th Avenue, and Nations Baseball representatives are reviewing an upgraded landscaping package. Spaces will be added to the parking lot as well. The final completion contract for the construction is pending and is expecting to be wrapped up soon. Once construction is finished, the complex’s final certificate of occupancy can be issued.

Ashby says that Presutti’s requests are reasonable and that the delay is acceptable considering feedback about the facility. He said if any further requests were made, the park opening would not be delayed.

“Everyone is very happy about it,” Ashby said.

Edifice Inc. is the contractor of the facility that is anticipated to attract 1,600 teams, generate 23,000 room nights annually and boost the economy by a projected $1.3 million. The now postponed November ribbon cutting ceremony was originally to be carried out in the summer after a test tournament to try out the facility in June.

The groundbreaking for the $7 million dollar project was held in March 2011, and by April, it was said to 85 percent complete. The construction of the 16-field park located on Southwest 30th Avenue and Sate Road 41, an 80-acre-site, encountered delays due to disturbance of a turtle species and sinkholes at the location.

The baseball complex, hailed as a national tourist attraction and a beacon for new business ventures, is funded by the Alachua County Tourism Development Tax, which appropriates its revenue from taxes on the county’s hotels.

“The City of Newberry remains committed to Nations Baseball’s Lou Presutti,” Mayor Bill Conrad said.  “He knows what he’s doing with youth baseball. We have run into a few glitches in the start up, which is to be expected with a new operation. We have high hopes for this spring and this summer.” The mayor will host the governor and some other VIPs for the opening ceremony.

Newberry has high stakes in the park, and the goal is to run it 20 weeks out of the year, Conrad said. With the focus on 11-years-and-under teams, the fields are 200 feet in length. This means that the park will only run about 14 to 16 weeks out of the year, to coincide with school terms. The City is looking to using the fields for women’s softball in the weeks the park isn’t running youth teams, which also has a regulation field length of 200 ft.

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Road rage with a gun


What reportedly began as a road rage incident in Marion County ended with two people arrested in Alachua County Monday afternoon.  According to preliminary reports, a caller contacted the Florida Highway Patrol regarding a road rage incident on northbound Interstate 75 in which either the driver or occupant of a late-model Toyota brandished a firearm.  The caller described the automobile in question as a black car with the words “Just Married” on the bumper.  By the time that vehicle reached the Alachua exit, more than a dozen Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) deputies were in pursuit.  With weapons drawn, deputies ordered the driver and passenger, a man and woman, out of the Toyota.  Deputies on the scene say that did indeed recover a handgun from the car.  Meanwhile, both occupants were arrested over the incident, although it is unclear as to whether or not either was charged. Add a comment Add a comment

Local Female Protective Society Lodge celebrates service of members

W_-_Women_Protective_SocietyMembers of the Female Protective Society Lodge #3 along with President Mrs. Corine Waddell and Vice President Ms. Julia Kelly.

ALACHUA – The Female Protective Society Lodge #3 held a celebration fundraiser program at Mt. Nebo United Methodist Church on Aug. 11.  The celebration was themed “Celebrated life in the services of the Lord, ‘Giving honor where honor is due.’”

Among the key members who were honored were Mrs. Ada Bell Hunt and Mrs. Mayola Phelps, members since 1939 and 1967 respectively.  Other members who were honored include Dorothy Butler, Rosemary Harris, Mary Randell, Sarah James, Mattie Williams, Linnie Calhoun and Blossie Camps.

The keynote speaker at the celebration was Chief Rosa Rutledge of The Grand Female Protective Society Lodge #10 Inc.

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Newberry mayor recognized as Florida Municipal Electric Association’s Member of the Year

AC_Beyond2012ETALLAHASSEEFlorida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA) recognized the City of Newberry’s Mayor, Bill Conrad, as the 2012 Member of the Year at its annual conference in Ponte Vedra, Fla.

Conrad received the award amid much applause.  “It is indeed an honor to accept this recognition,” said Conrad. “FMEA serves to keep our state’s electric industry at the forefront of the nation by keeping its members current on latest trends on reliability, safety, and customer service.”

Bill Conrad is the elected mayor of Newberry and owner and president of Conrad Construction Company. The retired Air Force officer went from flying C-130s in Southeast Asia and Europe, to serving as a navigator on the VC-137 presidential aircraft in Washington, D.C., during the Reagan administration. Conrad was later deployed during Desert Storm and retired in 2000 as a lieutenant colonel.

Conrad sits on the board of the Florida Municipal Power Agency, the city’s wholesale power provider, and Policy Makers Council of the American Public Power Association. He represents public power utilities in meetings with members of Congress in Washington, D.C., as well as advocating for public power utilities - and low rates for customers - in Newberry.

“Bill exemplifies the definition of leader through his dedication to Newberry and to public power,” said Barry Moline, FMEA’s executive director. "We appreciate his energy and his ability to connect with elected officials at all levels."

FMEA’s Member of the Year Award is given out annually to a member or group of members that have shown exemplary service and dedication to Florida’s public power community.

The Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA) represents the unified interests of 34 public power communities across the state, which provides electricity to more than 3 million of Florida’s residential and business consumers.

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It’s a senior tradition

W_-__country_kitchen_001_copyW_-_country_kitchen_002_copyW_-_country_kitchen_003_copyW_-_country_kitchen_004_copyW_-_country_kitchen_005_copyW_-_country_kitchen_006_Lajuanna_copyNEWBERRY – As all of my readers know, I think small town life is wonderful and this is one of the reasons that I enjoy living here so much. This Monday morning I joined some Newberry High School (NHS) seniors for a “Last First Day,” at our Newberry Country Kitchen.

Lajuanna Jones owns this wonderful eatery, and says this tradition started about seven or eight years ago. The kids just show up for breakfast on their first day as seniors. They were so excited and having such a good time visiting with each other, and I moved from table to table so I could listen and visit with them. Christina Bridwell and her son, Brian, and his friend let me sit with them and then had to pay for my coffee since I left home with no money.

Lajuanna opened this restaurant 25 years ago and has been serving breakfast and lunch ever since. You can get breakfast all day and they have a super good hamburger. Lunch specials are on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The restaurant is open Monday through Saturday and is a favorite place for many locals. Homey atmosphere and country cooking is what you’ll get when you eat here. I love stopping in during breakfast because I can see friends and get some visiting done. Stop by and join the hometown group that eats here most every day.

On Friday’s before home football games, the football team and cheerleaders gather to eat and visit. They just seem to know that they are welcome to stop by and order their burgers and fries. How many restaurants would welcome a crowd of teenagers and their noise and mess? Well, they have found out that they are welcome at the Country Kitchen.

Hopefully Lajuanna can last another few years so more NHS kids can enjoy the traditions that have become a part of the downtown Newberry Country Kitchen.

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