NEWBERRY ‒ Newberry’s proposed Agri-Tech Innovation Park project has received a financial boost. At the May 22 City Commission meeting it was announced that the City of Newberry has been awarded a $55,000 grant through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) program to advance the project. The funding will cover engagement of a consultant to create an incubator business plan and provide economic development consulting services. These services will support the development of stakeholder engagement for both the Agri-Tech Innovation Park project and the rural business incubator.

The grant and $20,000 of supplemental funds from the City's Duke Energy Grant make up a total project cost of $75,000.

The next step following the incubator feasibility study will be the incubator business plan, which is likely in September.

Commissioners unanimously approved a request on first reading to rezone three contiguous parcels of land, consisting of 0.9 +/- acres, from Commercial, General (CG) to Commercial, Central Business District (C-CBD). The application was brought by Norfleet Construction Group, LLC, agent, for Bounds Properties, LLC.

The property is located at the southwest corner of State Road 26/West Newberry Road and Southwest 257th Street in the City’s Urban Service Area, which the City established to help create compact, contiguous urban development. It is also in the Newberry Historic District, Economic Development Overlay Area, Community Redevelopment Area and Transportation Enhancement Project Area.

Although concerns were raised about truck parking for Bounds fleet trucks, City of Newberry Principal Planner Jean-Paul Perez reminded the Commission that this issue was not part of the rezoning request. “No development is proposed in this petition and a Site and Development Plan is required for new development of this site,” he said. Realizing that specific development issues would be addressed in a later petition, Commissioners easily approved the zoning change.

In other business, seven construction companies responded to a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for a Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) for renovation and construction of Newberry City Hall. The project scope includes preconstruction services, construction and post-construction services, if the project was to progress through those stages.

The review committee selected Gainesville-based Scorpio as the highest-ranked firm. The Commission authorized the City Manager to begin negotiations to execute an agreement for CMAR services with Scorpio. Commissioners also authorized the City Manager to negotiate with the second ranked firm should he not be able to come to an agreement with the top ranked firm.

Baby Box

An announcement was made at the May 22 meeting that the City recently received an anonymous donation of $11,000 to help pay for a Safe Haven Baby Box at Newberry Fire Station. At the end of the May 22 Commission meeting when the Baby Box fundraiser and donation were announced, Jordan Fairfield added a donation of $10,000 to the amount collected, playing a pivotal role in achieving the financial objective.

The Safe Haven Baby Box initiative offers a safe, anonymous option for parents in crisis to surrender their newborns in a secure, warm and medically-equipped environment. The Baby Box also immediately alerts a series of first responders that a baby has been left in the box. “The upcoming installation at our fire station emphasizes our community's commitment to the welfare and safety of all our residents, especially the most vulnerable,” said City Manager Mike New.

“The Safe Haven Baby Box installation is a testament to our citizens’ collective goodwill and compassion,” said Mayor Jordan Marlowe. “Newberry is a community that consistently comes together in times of need.”

Details will be announced soon for a community event to celebrate the installation of the Safe Haven Baby Box. More information about Safe Haven Baby Boxes can be found at https://shbb.org/.

In other business, the City announced it will continue to sell the “Newberry - Small Town, Big Heart” tee-shirts with contributions from sales going to contribute to funding the Newberry Opioid Task Force. Anyone interested in supporting the cause and owning a piece of Newberry pride can purchase a shirt at www.newberryfl.gov/community/webform/newberry-big-heart-shirt-order-form.

Board Appointments

The Commission voted to appoint Naim Erched and Jordan Fairfield to fill Seats 4 and 5 of the Planning and Zoning Board (PZB) and Historic Architectural Review Board (HARB) and Paula Willis to fill Seat 6 on the HARB.

In March the Commission realigned the PZB and HARB seats to match the schedule of the City Commission election cycle and directed staff to provide a general ranking of applicants to the Commission prior to appointment of the new members.

In other City business, a joint City/County Commission meeting is scheduled for July 10. “It is anticipated that the meat packing plant will be among the items discussed at that meeting,” said Marlowe.

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