Newberry moves ahead on $4M-$6M city hall building

The City of Newberry held its regular meeting on Monday evening after holding a swearing-in ceremony for the three incumbents that kept their seats at the recent election.

Commissioner Monty Farnsworth won his election by three votes earlier in April to remain on the board. The other incumbents, commissioners Mark Clark and Rick Coleman, ran unopposed.

Discussion of a new city hall building highlighted Monday’s meeting. Monarch Design Group presented the current conceptual design—which features a building located at the same spot—to commissioners for feedback.

The plans remain fluid with multiple options to mitigate cost. The design will construct a new building behind city hall with a walkway between the two.

Discussion on the plans revolved around allowing cars to drive between the buildings if needed. Another question dealt with having dedicated office space for the commissioners.

The commission agreed that not all members needed a dedicated office but said two offices would suffice for their needs.

Costs ranged from $4 million to $6 million, depending on how decorative the building would be and what features the commission wants.

The two-story building would face NW First Avenue and most citizen business would occur in the new building under the current concept. The plan also allows for an open venue between the buildings for festivals and gatherings.

The commission voted 3-2, with commissioners Clark and Coleman in dissent, to move ahead with the next step of architectural and civil designs that would be needed to start construction. The city already budgeted $200,000 for moving forward, but the design phase will likely cost between $400,000 and $550,000.

The motion indicated that they would dedicate the funds set aside and budget the rest in the next fiscal year. The design company will apply the feedback from the commission and return for next steps.

Currently, city staff are split between buildings with no remaining space.

Mayor Jordan Marlowe said the city is growing by 300 to 500 a year, meaning approximately 3-5 new staff members if the city wants to keep its level of service.

The commission hopes to construct a complex with plenty of room to expand and fund future additions down the line.

Opioid Task Force

The commission finalized an interlocal agreement with the Opioid Task Force, allowing the group to expand in the coming years. Newberry gave $15,000 to the task force last year and it has visited different Alachua County municipalities to secure other donations.

Newberry used American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money to fund the project.

The group hopes to gain $50,000 from the municipalities before moving to the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners for a matching grant. With an agreement in place, the task force said it expects to begin formalizing the agreements with other cities.

The task force will create a board within the Children’s Trust of Alachua County and each city will elect a representative. The money would then flow through that board.

The task force also plans to institute a RadKIDS program in all rural schools by the fall school year. Micanopy already uses the program.

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