Ag Cen­ter

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Public meet­ing gar­ners sup­port as project fo­cuses on youth, ed­u­ca­tional pro­gram­ming.

Some 300 peo­ple gath­ered on Tues­day night to lis­ten to details re­gard­ing the proposed site for the New­ton County Agri­cul­tural Cen­ter at the FFA-FCCLA Cen­ter.

Keith El­lis, New­ton County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers (BOC) Chair, thanked the Ag Cen­ter Com­mit­tee, ap­pointed af­ter the pas­sage of the 2011 Spe­cial Pur­pose Lo­cal Op­tion Sales Tax (SPLOST) and made up of a com­bi­na­tion of com­mu­nity agri­cul­tural lead­ers and landown­ers, elected of­fi­cials and county em­ploy­ees in the fi­nan­cial, fa­cil­i­ties and Geo­graphic In­for­ma­tion Sys­tem (GIS) de­part­ments.

El­lis thanked State Sen­a­tor Rick Jef­fares and Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Dave Bel­ton, both present at the meet­ing, for help­ing to se­cure the state fund­ing for this fa­cil­ity.

“With­out the state money, we wouldn’t be hav­ing this con­ver­sa­tion,” El­lis said.

Ted Wynne, the County Ex­ten­sion Agent, spoke in sup­port of the ag cen­ter for ed­u­ca­tional and out­reach pur­poses. With ap­prox­i­mately 1,200 lo­cal stu­dents en­rolled in 4-H pro­grams and with ad­di­tional space needed those pro­grams, the proposed cen­ter would be used “greatly” by the 4-H pro­gram and Ex­ten­sion of­fice.

Sprin­kled through­out the au­di­ence were the blue jack­ets of FFA chap­ter mem­bers. When Mar­cus Pol­lard, FFA Co­or­di­na­tor at the New­ton Col­lege and Ca­reer Academy (NCCA), stood to speak in sup­port of the ag cen­ter, the au­di­ence re­acted with ap­plause.

Pol­lard noted that in his four years in New­ton County, he has seen the FFA pro­gram grow, most no­tably this year with the ad­di­tion of a new chap­ter at NCCA, al­most 200 new mem­bers and a sixth agri­cul­tural teacher in the sys­tem. Over 700 New­ton County stu­dents par­tic­i­pate in FFA pro­grams and, Pol­lard noted, “we are re­ally proud of our fa­cil­i­ties out be­hind the school but we have out­grown our fa­cil­i­ties.”

New­ton County Farm Bu­reau Pres­i­dent Brent Gal­loway gave a his­tory of the project be­fore pledg­ing Farm Bu­reau’s sup­port. Work­ing with many groups through­out the com­mu­nity, from youth to leg­is­la­tors, Farm Bu­reau was an orig­i­nal stake­holder in the project con­cept and worked with the New­ton County BOC to place it on the 2011 SPLOST, which was passed by vot­ers in March 2011.

With one in seven Ge­or­gians em­ployed in agri­cul­ture as a $74 bil­lion in­dus­try for the state, sup­port­ing agri­cul­tural growth and pro­grams in New­ton County is “the rea­son we pushed it so hard and will con­tinue to push it. We def­i­nitely have a need for it,” Gal­loway said.

Earnest Ni­chols, Pres­i­dent of the Pied­mont Cat­tle­men’s As­so­ci­a­tion, which in­cludes New­ton as well as four sur­round­ing coun­ties, stated sup­port of the ag cen­ter, not­ing the re­gional im­pact of this project.

“Most of our mem­bers are from New­ton County,” Ni­chols said. “It’s not just gonna to help out New­ton County but it’s gonna help out Jasper County and Butts County as well. There’s gonna be a lot of peo­ple com­ing from I-75, from I-20. That will bring a lot of rev­enue for these other coun­ties as well as New­ton County.”

Todd Teasley, Di­rec­tor of the Ge­or­gia FFA/FCCLA Cen­ter, then took the podium to ex­plain the con­cep­tual plans of this proposed New­ton County Agri­cul­tural Cen­ter. “This is not one per­son’s vi­sion but the work of many over many years.”

The proposed site for the ag cen­ter is on 40 acres of land in the front pas­ture of the FFA/ FCCLA Cen­ter. Though the arena will be vis­i­ble from Hwy 36, the fa­cil­ity as cur­rently placed, will be over 2,000-feet from Hwy 36. In ad­di­tion, the proposed site also has a natu- ral buf­fer from the FFA/FHA Camp Road.

The proposed fa­cil­ity will in­clude a large equine cov­ered pavil­ion, an out­door equine arena, a small in­door cli­mate con­trolled arena, stalls for horses, cat­tle, pigs, sheep and goats, as well as of­fice space and class­room/meet­ing room spa­ces.

Teasley noted that though a de­sign de­vel­oper had not been em­ployed, Sun­belt Builders had do­nated a set of con­cep­tual draw­ings.

Ac­cord­ing to Teasley, the vi­sion is for the proposed fa­cil­ity is to have fees that are sig­nif­i­cantly lower than those of the larger fa­cil­i­ties that are “un­rea­son­able for smaller, youth-cen­tered events.”

Tar­get users would in­clude lo­cal and re­gional live­stock shows, youth horse shows, live­stock and horse camps and clin­ics, ed­u­ca­tional and civic or­ga­ni­za­tion meet­ings, with most proposed uses un­der 300 peo­ple in at­ten­dance.

“This is go­ing to be designed with our youth in mind,” said Teasley.

Once the for­mal state­ments and pre­sen­ta­tion were over, El­lis opened up the floor to ci­ti­zen com­ments and ques­tions. From high school fresh­men in FFA to cur­rent farm­ers to horse en­thu­si­asts, the vast ma­jor­ity of com­ments were in over­whelm­ing sup­port of the project.

As a sin­gle voice of dis­sent, Sarah Dauby, a res­i­dent of the area, noted the per­ceived need for other de­vel­op­ment in the area, in­clud­ing a gro­cery store, and con­cern for the po­ten­tial in­crease in the vol­ume of traf­fic on Hwy 36.

El­lis an­nounced to the au­di­ence that a res­o­lu­tion for a part­ner­ship be­tween the county and the FFA/FCCLA Cen­ter to build, man­age, and op­er­ate the ag cen­ter would be on the agenda of the next Board of Com­mis­sion­ers.

The New­ton County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers will meet next on Tues­day, Aug. 2 at 7 p.m. at the His­toric Court­house.

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