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NEWBERRY – Newberry City Commissioners have certified the 2022 Newberry Municipal Election results and sworn in the 2022 elected officials.

Commissioner Group I – Ricky Coleman and Commissioner Group II – Mark Clark were unchallenged in the 2022 election and retained their seats.  Commissioner Group III – Monty Farnsworth retained his seat after a close election, winning by a three-vote margin. 

Following the official swearing in ceremonies on April 25, Commissioner Mark Clark was elected as Chairperson Pro-Tempore and Commissioner Tony Maizon was elected as Alternate Chairperson Pro-Tempore.  The Chairperson Pro-Tempore serves as the Chairperson of the Board of Adjustment and as the Chair of the Canvassing Board.

In other City business, Monarch Design Group Architect Barnett Chenault provided the Commission with an update on a conceptual phase of a proposed new City Hall. 

Commissioners expressed concern about a drive-through covered pavilion between the existing City Hall structure and the new facility.  Asphalt pavement in the design seemed to suggest vehicles could drive under the covered pavilion and between the two buildings.  Safety concerns for pedestrians as well as aesthetics led Commissioners to suggest more attractive alternatives.

The original plan called for an office for each of the Commissioners and the mayor but was changed to provide two offices for use by Commissioners.  The saved space would leave room for other options such as a conference area, or an office for the tax collector or a driver’s license renewal office at a future date.

Chenault suggested it would take six to 10 months for civil and architectural work to be completed and another 10 months to build out the structure. 

Newberry Finance Director Dallas Lee said $200,000 has been set aside in this year’s budget for the City Hall project, but Chenault said the cost could be $400,000 to $550,000 to finish up the design concept.  Lee said they could set aside another $200,000 to $300,000 in next year’s budget and that there were other funding sources that would be available to them.  In addition, Commissioners are considering increasing development fees.

Concern was expressed about the Southwest 15th Avenue project vs. City Hall.  City Manager Mike New said the population is growing and if the City is going to keep up with providing services to citizens, a new City Hall structure was going to be needed.  “We already have people located all around the City,” he said.  The only other option was to put staff in portables.

In a roll call vote Commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of going ahead with the City Hall project.  Commissioners Mark Clark and Rick Coleman provided the dissenting votes.

In other business, Commissioners unanimously voted to increase the original State Revolving Fund (SRF) Loan Agreement with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) from the original loan amount of $275,000, with a 50 percent grant forgiveness, to $1.1 million.  The original amount was to develop an engineering report on the expansion of the City’s wastewater treatment plant. 

In December 2021, the City Commission entered into a land purchase agreement to acquire additional property at the City’s existing plant.  With this action the Commission authorized the increase to the loan amount to cover the cost of the land purchase at an interest rate of 0.02 percent.

Commissioners unanimously approved Resolution 2022-23, requesting that the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners include funding in their FY 2022–23 budget to develop an annual rural highway improvement/ resurfacing program and receive suggestions on rankings of county rural highways in and around Newberry for improvements and resurfacing.  New said a joint meeting with the County is scheduled for the end of May.

New initially proposed seven roadways in and around Newberry, but Commissioners whittled that list to three top choices.  County Road 337 was at the top of the list due to the high fatality rate and number of curves on that roadway.  Second and third are CR 235 and 232 due to the high trip count on both roadways.

In other action, three expiring Planning and Zoning Board seats will be filled by Donald Long, Anne Polo and Linda Woodcock.  Their seats will expire on April 30, 2025.  Mellina Parker will join the Historic Architectural Review Board.  Her term will also expire on April 30, 2025.

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