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Franklin Co. eyes funding for ag complex

February 06, 2000|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A drive could get under way this spring to raise $3.7 million for a new Franklin County agricultural complex that would house the county's four major agricultural agencies, the director of the Franklin County Penn State Cooperative Extension Agency said Monday.

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Robert Kessler said Wednesday a consultant has been hired to see if it's possible to raise that kind of money through a private donations. No government funds would go into the project, Kessler said. He said the consultant's report should be ready in March.

The agencies involved in the project, in addition to the extension office, include the natural Resources Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency, both of which are federal agencies, and the Franklin County Conservation District.

According to Kessler, plans call for construction of two new buildings and renovations to a third.

The biggest, most expensive structure would be called the Franklin County Agriculture and Natural Resource Center. It will cover nearly 21,000 square feet on two stories and house offices for all four agencies, Kessler said. It would also be home to the county's 4-H Center, a visitors center and museum, as well as common areas such as meeting rooms for all four agencies.

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The county extension office has outgrown is space in the large old white-brick building on Franklin Farm Road that was once the county nursing home. The extension office has been in the building since 1970. It occupies all of the second floor, two rooms on the first and most of the third floor, Kessler said.

The other agencies occupy space in the County Administrative Annex at 216 N. Second St., a former Sears store.

The goal of the new construction is to bring all four county agricultural agencies under one roof.

"By bringing all the agriculture-related services into one center, we believe it will be a benefit to the farmers," said County Commissioner G. Warren Elliott.

Elliott said the Franklin County Conservation District could become the owner of the main building, since it is qualified to accept donations. The other agencies would help pay for the building through their leases, as the Conservation District, Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation District now do at the County Administrative Annex.

The new building would be built across Franklin Farm Lane from the Falling Spring Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and is estimated to cost $2.2 million.

The second new building in the project would be an exhibition center. It would be built nearby and would feature a convention hall with a capacity of up to 350. Moveable walls would allow for smaller meeting areas and it would be served by a caterer's kitchen, Kessler said. There will also be an outside pavilion and picnic area.

The building, which would cover 11,600 square feet, would be used for farm shows and exhibits, classrooms, as a training center and would be available for rent to private enterprises such as trade shows, Kessler said.

It would cost $1.25 million, he said.

The third leg of the project would be renovations of an old barn on Franklin Farm Lane that would be called the Franklin County Agricultural Learning and Environmental Center, Kessler said. Schools and other groups would make use of the building. Included in that project would be improvements to the barn to bring it up to code and improvements to the Therapeutic Riding Center. Small farm animals like rabbits, chickens and sheep will still be housed below in the barn as part of the extension agency's agricultural learning program, Kessler said.

The Franklin County Commission is donating the land for the buildings and would pay for regular maintenance once they are built and operating, Kessler said.

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