BOCC passes on church purchase at $3.3M

The Alachua County Commission has agreed to let an option contract to purchase the Fellowship Baptist Church in High Springs for $3.3 million expire at 5 p.m. on June 12.
After two appraisals on the parcel which has a 35,000 square-feet of buildings and 20 acres came in averaging $2,187,000, and immediate repairs requiring an additional $532,100 were determined after inspection, the difference between the cost of repairs and appraised value revealed a $1 million gap in value to the county’s proposed purchase price.
The property is located at 16916 NW U.S. Highway 441 and comes with a 10,000 square foot gym with a full kitchen, more than 30 offices, conference and activity rooms and eight bathrooms.
The BOCC was eyeing up the location as a hub for services to the western area of Alachua County. The Alachua County Health Department, Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, St. Madeleine’s Outreach and Family Promise were among the organizations that had expressed an interest in operating out of the location.
But county public works director Ramon Gavarrete presented the staff recommendation that the board approve a motion to not exercise its option to purchase the property.
The BOCC agreed they would be willing to pay $1,925,000 for the property but the seller has not yet responded to that offer.
Commissioner Anna Prizzia said she would like to hear from surrounding communities about what to do next.  “The idea and option were awesome,” she said. “Reality says yes to the idea but maybe this is not the right spot.”
Commissioner Chair Ken Cornell said the BOCC learned, “We need to provide services to the west part of the county.”
He was all for counter offering the lower price of $1,925,000 and said, “If this one doesn’t work out, we’ll keep searching.”
Commissioner Marihelen Wheeler said a place like that property is desperately needed as the county continues to grow.
“We are willing to make sure their needs are going to be addressed,” she said. “Maybe they’ll lower the price,” she said about the current property owners. “We need to increase resources and keep pace with that growth.”

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