Sixteen years after the Tri-County Agriculture Complex plans began taking shape, it appears an opening date is within reach.
Ken Sheppard, who chairs the board for the facility, says March 2013 is the goal to have the complex functional.
“The Rotary Club is planning a tri-county fair next March, along with Extension offices in three counties,” Sheppard explains. “We have to be ready for that.”
The complex, serving Calhoun, Liberty and Gulf counties, is set to be constructed on a 46-acre site next to the Florida Division of Forestry building inside the Calhoun County Industrial Park at SR 71 and Magnolia Church Road. One building has been erected, but is basically a shell at this point. However, Sheppard says electrical wiring has already taken place and water is available. Over the years, around $784,000 has been allocated for the project. A year ago, $200,000 remained in the bank.
“We have money available to get the park open with the help of the three county commissions,” Sheppard remarks. “But we can’t go ask for additional funding until we have something to show for the money that’s been given to us.”
The board has contracted with the engineering firm, Preble-Rish. Sheppard says they are following a plan of action which includes getting the parking solidified by filling in low lying areas, obtaining permits, erecting barns for livestock, then adding panels for portable arenas, plus bathroom and concession areas.
Sheppard notes, “The whole reason this has not progressed is a lack of communication between the tri-county board and county commissioners.” He adds that communication has now been established and the tri-county board plans to keep commissioners informed each step of the way. “We have given them a road map of what we are going to do...we have 100 percent cooperation from the county and I’m really optimistic about it.”
Sheppard sees great potential for the region with the opening of the ag complex. “If managed and developed properly, it is going to bring income to Calhoun County.”
Livestock shows, equestrian events, fairs, and festivals will have abundant accommodations at the complex.
Sheppard emphasizes, “It can be done with the cooperation and help we have from our county commission and the county commissions in the other two counties.”