NEWBERRY ‒ One Monday, June 14, the City of Newberry conducted a Board of Adjustment meeting, followed by a regular City Commission meeting and finally a Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) Board meeting.

The Commission gave unanimous approval of a new contract for law enforcement services between Newberry and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Department.

The earlier contract was signed in October 2017 under Sheriff Sadie Darnell and began in 2018 at $777,000. The agreement was for a three-year period with a two-year extension allowed. In subsequent years a 3.75 percent increase was added to the previous year’s cost each fiscal year. However, during the 2020-2021 fiscal year the contract increased by 20.46 percent with no increase in services.

Newberry City Manager Mike New said the cost would have been $1,007,513 this year with an increase in health insurance and retirement costs.

In October 2020, Newberry sent a contract termination letter to the Sheriff’s Department. Based on the terms of the previous agreement and the termination letter, services provided to Newberry were scheduled to end July 1, 2021.

The new agreement with the Alachua County Sheriff’s Department under Sheriff Clovis Watson, Jr., is for a five-year period and begins with a cost to the City of $867,731. “That is a savings of [nearly] $140,000,” said New. From July 1, 2021 through Sept. 30, 2021, the City will pay monthly payments of $113,856. The next fiscal year’s total cost would be $900,276. With an increase of 3.75 percent per fiscal year, by the end of the contract period in 2024-2025, the total payment would be $1,005,396.

In addition to continuing to provide three school resource officers, one for each Newberry school, a full-time deputy within the City, crossing guards, increased patrols within the city limits, extra deputies for the usual events and dispatch services, Watson proposes to establish a sheriff’s substation in Newberry. In this agreement, the City agrees to make office space available for use as a substation via a lease agreement.

According to Watson, he proposes to have sheriff’s substations in each Alachua County municipality that doesn’t have their own police department.

Two citizens asked Watson if the schools could retain the same school resource officers, saying that their children have grown to trust the ones that have been stationed in their schools previously. Watson said he was moving people around in his department so his staff would have the opportunity to experience other aspects of police work.

In other business, Commissioners considered checking out additional options for legal services as the City has used the same law firm for 50 years. An option brought up was having an in-house attorney on staff. Ultimately, Commissioners expressed their belief that they had good representation currently and no action was taken.

Planning and Economic Development Director Bryan Thomas reviewed the proposed Newberry Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) Redevelopment Plan for the CRA Board and explained that the Plan is funded through Tax Increment Financing (TIF).

The proposed CRA district is about one square mile in downtown Newberry that has been determined to be blighted. Total estimated costs to address everything in the plan, which includes parking, economic development, affordable housing, streetscaping, historic preservation and parks/public spaces, etc. would be between $9.7 and $14.15 million.

The CRA plan is for 20 years. Thomas said projected TIF contributions are estimated to be $1,639,305 over that period of time. “However, the City can request another 20 years near the end of the initial 20-year-period in order to complete the projects unfunded at that time,” he said.

Following unanimous approval of the CRA plan Thomas said the plan would be forwarded to the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) for consideration at the joint meeting between the City and County scheduled for June 28.

Two Quasi-Judicial public hearings and a final plat approval for Phase 1A of Avalon Woods were held on second reading and all were approved. The first was Ordinance 2021-24 for voluntary annexation which involves three parcels contiguous to the City boundaries. The total acreage annexed is 238.6 +/- and the location is 3200 N.W. 202nd Street.

The second Quasi-Judicial hearing was an application to amend the Lexington Station Mixed Use Development, Ordinance 2021-14, on 196 +/- acres directly north, west and south of the Easton Newberry Sports Complex. The request also includes changing the development’s name to Avalon Woods.

In addition to the name change, a modification to the maximum permitted residential and nonresidential uses was approved. As part of their approval and recommendation to the City Commission, the Planning and Zoning Board advised that storage or mini warehouses not be allowed along highway frontage. The plan indicates that those issues are addressed.

The final item approved also involved Avalon Woods, which received Phase 1A final plat approval. Principal Planner Wendy Kinser-Maxwell said the plat had been reviewed by the city’s surveyor and the city attorney and the developer has provided a surety agreement for the Phase 1A infrastructure.

New addressed the joint City/County Commission meeting scheduled for June 28. He listed the items the County wants to address and then the items the City wishes to discuss. The County has listed a strategic workshop and infrastructure surtax, which New said he believes is the combination of a road tax and Wild Spaces Public Places funds to be provided to each city. He also listed a residential rental unit permit and inspection program the County hopes the City will partner with them on. A Trunk Radio System and an update on the Ag. Center and Extension Office are also listed by the County.

Tentative City items include the CRA plan, a rural road resurfacing program and support for a regional wastewater treatment plant.

“Several workshops will be taking place this summer,” New said. June 26 is the date for the Community Visioning Session. “Anyone planning to attend should RSVP as soon as possible,” he said.

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