Escambia Moves Forward On 4-H Facility; Wants Explanation Of Plans For 4-H Funds
January 4, 2013
The Escambia County Commission voted Thursday night to move forward toward constructing a $1.5 million Escambia County 4-H Center, but commissioners made it clear they want some answers from the University of Florida IFAS on how they plan to use proceeds from the $3.6 million sale of the Langley Bell 4-H Center.
Earlier this year, the children and teens on the 4-H County Council voted to sell their 240 acre Langley Bell 4-H Center to Navy Federal Credit Union. Navy Federal paid $3.6 million for the property next to the credit union’s campus in Beulah. $2 million of the sale proceeds were placed in an endowment fund for 4-H, and $1.6 million was reserved for 4-H to use under the guidance of UF/IFAS for a property including livestock facilities.
The Escambia County Commission also agreed to construct the new 4-H Center on Stefani Road with $1.5 million in local option sales tax funds, which is totally unrelated to the $3.6 million sale proceeds.
Thursday night, the commission approved a $170,000 contract with Hernandez Calhoun Design International for architectural and engineering services for the new 4-H Center. Interim County Administrator George Touart made it clear that if the building came in over budget, the project was dead in the water without cost reductions.
Meanwhile, a 4-H Task Force is currently holding meetings to develop viable options that may be considered to meet the livestock, natural resources, and outdoor education needs of 4-H. The Task Force will present its findings to the UF/IFAS Dean of Extension, who will in turn use the information provided by the task force to make decisions for the 4-H program on how to use $1.6 million from the Navy Federal sale to construct or purchase another facility in addition to Stefani Road.
Commissioners said they expect UF/IFAS to spend the $1.6 million on a livestock facility.
“I would like us to one way or another get IFAS to give us their expectation of what they are going to be doing,” Commissioner Grover Robinson said Thursday night. “I think clearly I believe this board by its own actions and everything else fully expects there to be a livestock program in Escambia County, and fully expects things to be moving forward with all the programs IFAS provides. But in a sense we are kind of left out in the cold. We don’t really get to make these decisions, and I think IFAS should be telling us what is going on.”
“We have absolutely no intentions of cutting out any program,” Escambia County Extension Director Pam Allen told commissioners. “In fact, we are going to be adding more programs…Livestock is our grassroots background. We are not eliminating anything. We will find a way to meet every need we have in the 4-H program.”
“We said we want them to get some comparable land so they can feel satisfied,” Commissioner Wilson Robertson, who also serves on the 4-H Foundation board, said. “I think we ought to hear to hear from the 4-H. I think we ought to hear from those young men and women who voted to sell that property. They…need to be lobbying the Foundation and IFAS can’t overrule what the Foundation votes on. That money is ours to stay in this county.”
“I am going to be highly upset if that $1.6 million goes into this building at Stefani Road or goes to Gainesville, I tell you,” Robertson said, “because we promised them (the 4-H youth) otherwise.”
In approving the architectural and design contract Thursday night, the commission stipulated that the Stefani building is not to exceed $1.5 million from the county, and IFAS will provide a complete explanation of their plans for Escambia County 4-H.
Pictured top: The Langley Bell 4-H Center was sold to Navy Federal Credit Union for $3.6 million. Pictured below: A new 4-H Center will be constructed adjacent to the Escambia County Extension Office on Stefani Road. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.