AP NEWS

Discussion needed before movement on proposed County Ag building

October 8, 2018 GMT

More discussion will be needed over the future of a project that is of great interest to Polk County’s agriculture industry sought for the midway point between Cedartown and Rockmart.

Glenn and Laura Robinson appeared before the Polk County Commission again to provide new information on a strategic report that will need additional study on the part of local leaders before any decision is made on how to move forward.

The pair provided a report on cost estimates for construction, on what they think potential annual revenue and expenditures could look like and more in a 15-page document presented to the Commission during their Oct. 1 work session.

That included an overview of what they saw as potential uses for an Agriculture Education Center in Fish Creek that would be used for both youth and adults, and could also act as a new home for the University of Georgia’s Cooperative Extension Office run locally by Extension Coordinator Ricky Ensley.

It would also potentially act as a conference center and a site where large and small animal shows could be held.

However, the price tag is what has Commissioners wanting to pause on moving ahead with the plan just as much as the work required to get to any starting point.

Commission Chair Jennifer Hulsey and Commissioner Scotty Tillery both called for follow-up meetings on the center.

They both said they needed further time to study the proposal brought before the commission just a few days ahead of their work session.

Hulsey especially made it clear that the county was interested in the project, but had real questions over what it was going to take, and what kind of partnerships in funding would be available to move forward.

“So please, don’t think our critiquing is not that we’re trying not to help you with this, but we have to ask these questions so that when we do it, we get it right and we move forward,” Hulsey said.

One aspect of the project that Commissioner Hal Floyd said he did like about the project was that it was reported thus far to be revenue-positive.

“It’s not a for-profit enterprise, and that certainly makes it sound better as far as giving it our support,” he said.

The Robinsons along with others in the community seek to build a 28,000-square foot facility that would include both covered and open-air arenas and a state of the art cannery, along with a conference center-style meeting area.

A University of Georgia report estimated a price tag of around $1.5 million. Commissioners said at the time they were unsure of where funds would come from, but mentioned the possibility of using Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax money for construction, along with charitable donations from private organizations and individuals.

Among those already contributing to the cause is former Governor Roy Barnes, who Laura Robinson reported already provided pro-bono legal services to help establish a non-profit organization for the group seeking to build the agriculture education center.

This particular center would include any help the Polk School District would elect to give, but would be entirely separate from their agriculture education center already midway through construction on the campus of Rockmart High School as part of E-SPLOST spending approved in previous years.