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NEWBERRY ‒ The Newberry City Commission at its April 26 meeting approved a resolution requesting that Alachua County include funding in the Fiscal Year 2021-2022 budget for road projects. The City is asking that the County develop an annual rural highway improvement/resurfacing program and to allocate funding for improvements and resurfacing of County Road 337 in southwest Newberry.

City Manager Mike New said that CR 337, which is south of State Road 26 in Newberry and runs to the Levy County line, is in poor condition and is in need of resurfacing. The 8.4-mile-long highway is extremely narrow at 18 feet, which should be 24 feet, and has failing asphalt. In 2011, that highway ranked fifth on the county’s Prioritized Pavement Management List. Aside from routine maintenance, no modifications or improvements have been undertaken on the highway since adoption of the priority list.

New said, “Alachua County reports 48 traffic incidents over the past five years on that road with three involving fatalities.”

In other business, the Commission tentatively approved Ordinance 2021-23 vacating a portion of Southwest Third Avenue from Southwest 252nd Street west to the CSX Railroad right-of-way. A petition was brought by Billy Beltz, agent for 352 Construction, LLC, requesting the transfer. New said the street segment is platted but unimproved and presented a map showing the location, which he described as “difficult to recognize as a road” due to vegetation.

The city evaluated that segment of the street and determined that no utilities are present on it. New said that staff believes the street segment serves no public purpose as a public street or for public utilities, now or in the future.

The petition received unanimous approval. If the ordinance is approved again on second reading the property within the street segment will be divided equally and will be transferred to adjacent property owners, 352 Properties LLC on the north and the Florida Department of Transportation on the south.

The City will be paying off a State Revolving Fund (SFR) loan early and expects to save some $60,000 in interest charges by doing so. The City currently owes $425,501 with 20 more annual payments due. “Given current interest rates and the return on investment of the city’s cash, it would be favorable to pay off this debt,” said Finance Manager Dallas Lee. “Additionally, paying off the debt would increase the city’s debt rating for future debts issued. The City has sufficient cash reserves on hand to make this payment.”

The loan was taken out in 2009 through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s SRF Loan Program for water system improvements and expansion. The loan funded a new public supply well, well pump, disinfection system, auxiliary power systems and associated engineering. The project was completed in 2011, and the City began making its first debt service payments in March 2012.

“Total serviceable debt for Newberry had been about $2.2 million,” said Marden after the meeting. “The move reduces the overall debt nearly 20 percent.”

The City of Newberry has received a 2020 Safety Award from the Florida Municipal Electric Association for a perfect record of no incidences of work-related reportable injuries or illnesses for 2020. “This is the sixth year the city has won this award,” said Director of Utilities and Public Works Jamie Jones.

Upcoming meetings include a tentatively scheduled in person joint meeting with the Newberry City Commissions and the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners on June 28. The meeting will be held at the Easton-Newberry Sports Complex, 24880 N.W. 16th Avenue. A time has not yet been specified.

Two in person public forums have been scheduled, also taking place at Easton-Newberry Sports Complex. The forums are to receive input from the community about what they would like to see in Newberry in the next 10 years. Forums will take place May 8 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. and May 11 from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. The May 8 meeting will be held in person. Attendees must RSVP in advance via the city’s website or Facebook. The May 11 meeting will be presented via Zoom. All citizens of Newberry are invited to participate in these meetings.

Commissioners will hold a workshop May 19 at 7 p.m. to discuss the Community Redevelopment Agency.

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