County signs 10 year lease on ag center

A 10 year lease agreement on the Holmes County Agriculture Center was approved when the Holmes County Board of County Commissioners met in special session on Dec.29.

The lease has been a topic of discussion for several months while the county looks for funding to refurbish the building that has sat vacant since Hurricane Michael left the building unusable due to health and safety concerns.

Attorney Brandon Young recommended signing the lease to keep the building under the county because he believes the chances of appropriations to refurbish the facility will be approved. State Representative Brad Drake has submitted a bill for appropriation for three projects combined,believing this is the best way to secure the funding.

The Legislative Delegation meeting that was held on Dec. 6 and Liberty Partner’s Jennifer Green reported back to the board on the plan to move ahead with funding sources and plans to move ahead with the agriculture center and surrounding land. There are three separate options for the building and the land, The first is the possibility of building UF/IFAS offices on the county owned property adjacent to the ag center. The second is building a public safety building on the same site which would house EMS and HCSO Dispatch. The final possibility is for the county to purchase the property back from the state. The total estimated cost of the three combined is $1.5 million.

The state’s legal team offered up language in the lease stating that should the county not maintain the building in a sufficient manner, it would then revert back to the state to run. However, the deed clearly states the facility is to be operated as a facility for public use. Should the state take the facility back, it would then have to make the needed repairs and open it for public use or return it to the county, a situation that Commissioner Clint Erickson says is a win either way for the county. “Whether we get appropriation funding for the facility or the state gets it and fixes it,” said Erickson. “It will be a win-win for us. It will be fixed and open to the public again, which is what we have been trying to do for three years.”

The answer to the funding questions will not be answered until next budget season rolls around in mid to late 2022. In the meantime, the county will maintain control of the ag center for at least 10 years with the new lease agreement.

The Holmes County Board of County Commissioners will meet again in regular session at 9 a.m. on January 10.


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