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NEWBERRY – County Assistant County Manager and Chief of Staff Gina Peebles addressed the Newberry City Commission at the Feb. 24 meeting to provide an update on the progress that has been made at the Alachua County Agriculture & Equestrian Center.

Peebles presented the proposed layout of the facility and said that the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) allocated $13 million to the project at their Feb. 11 meeting, which was more than they had initially planned to allocate. This is in addition to the $3.8 million they paid to purchase the property.

Referring to a map showing the layout of the property, Peebles said the items in blue were required improvements and then she explained the reasons. “Homes were encroaching on the north property line on the outdoor arena space. Also, with the addition of a 50-foot vegetative buffer, that facility needed to be relocated. Our drainage was on an adjacent piece of property so we have to move the drainage onto our site,” she said. “Also required were ADA improvements and site work in addition to the new IFAS Center and Auditorium.”

In addition to the required improvements, Alachua County approved additional items as well. Those improvements include a new restroom building to accommodate a full arena seating capacity. They also include improvements needed to the arena in addition to ADA improvements. “We have some beams that need to be repaired, a new roof will be constructed and some concrete on the outside to assist with erosion will be done,” she said.

The existing pole barn at the current east Gainesville location will be relocated to the current facility. “It was originally purchased with Youth Fair funds so they are going to work with us to relocate that building out here. The Board also really wanted additional landscaping above and beyond what is required by code,” she said.

Peebles also showed a layout of the IFAS facility, which will encompass 7,043 sq. ft. It will include a conference room that seats 15, 10 offices and a lab.

She also reviewed the Auditorium Building, which will encompass 12,498 sq. ft., 4,546 sq. ft. of which will actually be the auditorium itself. The auditorium has a capacity of more than 300 occupants and is divisible into three smaller rooms. There will also be a kitchen a lobby and other needed rooms and facilities.

The cost estimate for the proposed improvements total $10,552,050. The cost estimate for the optional improvements is $3,532,178.

According to the work schedule provided by Peebles, final civil/site work design should be completed by April with a notice to proceed to occur in June. Final construction documents will be ready in July with a notice to proceed for remaining construction elements to be scheduled for October. Civil work, such as ponds and utilities, should be completed by December. Construction of the three buildings will come next and will run into 2021 with a final construction completion time estimated to be December of that year.

The only commission question had to do with the orientation of the buildings. Peebles pointed to the lobbies of both buildings indicating they would be facing each other. At some point county commissioners would like to see some type of covered walkway between the entrances to both buildings, but at this time that has not been budgeted Peebles said.

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