County, city of Newberry discuss transportation tax, Nations Park
Published: Monday, April 28, 2014 at 10:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, April 28, 2014 at 10:45 p.m.
The Alachua County Commission and the Newberry City Commission kept things short Monday evening when they met for about an hour to discuss matters of mutual interest: Nations Park and the 2014 transportation sales tax initiative.
The joint city-county meeting was held at Newberry City Hall just before the City Commission's solo meeting, which was scheduled for 7 p.m. and started not too long after that.
Commissioners first discussed the eight-year, 1-cent sales tax referendum the County Commission plans to put on the November ballot. The sales tax revenue would fund road repairs and other transportation projects throughout the county, including projects the city of Newberry prioritizes for its share of the funding.
The 1-cent sales tax would bring in an estimated $30 million a year, about $1.1 million of which would go to the city of Newberry, acting Assistant County Manager Michael Fay told both commissions.
Newberry Mayor Bill Conrad spoke positively of the sales tax initiative, which he said is a good deal for the city of Newberry.
Newberry's budget for streets and roads is less than $800,000, he said, so more than $1 million a year in sales tax revenue would let the city do a lot with roads.
Many people preach against increasing taxes, Conrad said.
“But this is one that does very well for the citizens of Newberry,” he said.
County Commissioner Lee Pinkoson also pointed out that part of the sales tax revenue would come from people who visit the Gainesville area but live outside the county.
City Commissioner Jordan Marlowe asked if the county would host workshops again this year like it did in 2012 for a similar sales tax initiative that failed to win enough voters' approval that November.
Pinkoson told him the county would hold informational workshops later this year and welcomed anything the city could do to promote those events among local residents.
The City Commission updated county commissioners on the status of Nations Park as well.
The 16-field baseball complex hasn't gotten the number of tournaments the city hoped for but still has potential, Conrad said. Nations Park also hasn't generated the kind of hotel bed nights the city anticipated.
“It's getting off to a slow start but we have generated some and we feel like we could do a lot better,” he said.
The city is regrouping on this and is taking another look at its options now that there's a new majority on the commission, he said.
Commissioners Rick Coleman, Monty Farnsworth and Jason McGehee were all elected earlier this month while two longtime incumbents were ousted in the same election.
One option Conrad mentioned would be to establish a contract with the Gainesville Sports Commission to manage the baseball park, which the city is considering.
Conrad thanked the county for helping fund Nations Park, while Marlowe emphasized that the City Commission is committed to finding a solution that will benefit the baseball complex.
Everyone wants to see Nations Park succeed, Marlowe said, and the city has some new ideas about how it could achieve that.
Pinkoson said the baseball complex is still in its growing period, which the county understood it would need, and said he personally thinks Nations Park has all the potential in the world.
Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or firstname.lastname@example.org.