City of Jacksonville to vote on new environmental learning center


JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – The Jacksonville City Council will meet Tuesday night to decide whether to construct a new educational and development center that the non-profit Sturgeon City says will improve their ability to offer programs to the public.

The plan for the new center has been in the works for the last five years, and the City Council has already held two workshops regarding it. Sturgeon City is just waiting on final approval.

The new environmental educational center would replace old classrooms and allow the city to expand its programs, which serve about 8,000 to 10,000 people per year.

The current facilities, which are at capacity, can only accommodate 100 people in both inside and outside spaces.

Sturgeon City director of development and operations Paula Farnell said while they have faced obstacles, she is hopeful the city will approve the center.

“It’s taking longer than any of us anticipated really, and so that has caused some issues,” said Farnell. “But I’m excited to see where this goes. We’re going to keep moving forward and make the right decision.”

The city has options six options regarding the center. It can approve the original design, built it at another site, build classrooms offsite or find another use for the money.

“The fifth option is to build classroom space down at sturgeon city, then take the balance of the money and pay down the bonds,” said City Manager Richard Woodruff. “And then of course the last option is not to do the project and take the balance of the funds from the previous bond and pay down the bond debt.”

The original design would put the price of the center $1 million over budget.

The roughly 13,000-square-foot center is designed to hold up to 500 people.

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