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State to match Newton funds for Agriculture Center
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A Newton County Agriculture Center will be built and operated in partnership with the Georgia FFA-FCCLA Center, pending approval from the Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC).

The Agriculture Center SPLOST Committee approved contributing $1.1 million in Newton County SPLOST funds to the state and will use the FFA-FCCLA Camp in a 50-year agreement for a new agriculture center.

The committee will go in front of the Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) prior to its Tuesday, May 10, work session and present the plan that was approved Thursday. The use of the 2011 SPLOST funds for the agriculture center could go to the BOC for a vote on May 17.

“It’s a dream come true for the Newton County Agriculture community as a whole,” committee member Mort Ewing said, “particularly for the current youth involved in 4H, FFA and equine.”

The FFA, 4-H and equine community determined there was a need for an agriculture center in 2004 and published a report on that need on Sept. 29, 2010. The BOC then allocated $1.1 million to build the center in the 2011 SPLOST, which was approved by Newton County voters.

“The vision for the Newton County Agriculture Center is to have a central location that could host various agricultural education events,” said a report by the Newton County Agriculture Center Land Subcommittee. “The goal is to have a multi-purpose agricultural center for Newton County large enough to host all types of agriculture education events.”

Research done by committee members, visiting other centers around the state showed that a 40-acre center was large enough to fulfill all the needs of the groups using the centers and the shows hosted there.

The Agriculture Center SPLOST Committee land subcommittee was appointed after the SPLOST was passed, and consists of Ewing, Todd Teasley, Brent Galloway and Ted Wynne.

The subcommittee looked at more than 20 sites, but none fit the budget or criteria. Someone with the Georgia FFA-FCCLA Center then expressed interest in partnering with Newton County, providing 40 acres of land located at the intersection of Ga. Hwy. 36 and FFA Road.

The estimated cost of the construction of the facility is $3,350,000, based on similar buildings in Georgia.

Tuesday, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed the 2017 state budget that included $2 million for the Georgia FFA-FCCLA to partner with Newton County on construction of the agriculture center.

"Agriculture is the number one business in my District and the state,” said Rep. Dave Belton (R-District 112). “I'm delighted Senator Jeffares and I were able to secure these funds for the education of our children and to generate economic development to Newton County and the surrounding area."

Newton County’s $1.1 million, combined with the state’s $2 million isn’t enough to pay the expected $3,350,000 the facility will cost. The rest of the money will come from $250,000 from a tobacco settlement fund.

With the $3,350,000, the agriculture center facility is expected to contain an outdoor arena with seating, small climate controlled indoor arena with seating, livestock barns, classrooms, offices, parking area, concession stands and restrooms. The Georgia FFA-FCCLA will operate the center and assume its maintenance and operation through user fees.

Newton County shows, hosted by the FFA and 4H, will be held at the new center for no cost, according to the SPLOST committee.

“The facility will attract regional and state livestock and equine events,” said the committee’s report. “These events will bring in user fees for maintenance and operation. The participants of these events will be generating sales tax revenue and hotel tax for Newton County.”