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    Tarpon wins grant to help neighborhood

    The $300,000 in state funds, in addition to matching funds, will go toward revitalization projects in the Union Academy neighborhood.

    By KATHERINE GAZELLA

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 27, 2001


    TARPON SPRINGS -- The city has received a $300,000 grant to revitalize the residential areas of the Union Academy neighborhood.

    The grant money can be used to rehabilitate existing homes, build new homes and make infrastructure improvements along Safford Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, said Charlie Attardo, the city's business services specialist.

    "It's a lot of fix-up and cleanup," Attardo said.

    He said the city is working with the Union Academy Oversight Committee to decide how the money should be used. Some ideas include having one or two low-income homes built, helping elderly people get central heat or air conditioning installed and having new roofs installed on some homes, Attardo said.

    The low-income houses might be built by the Tarpon Springs Housing Authority or Clearwater Neighborhood Housing, he said.

    The city and county governments made a joint application for the state grant in November, and the city, county and housing authority will provide another $1.4-million in matching funds toward providing more affordable housing. Money from the one-time grant must be appropriated within the next 12 months.

    "We have to get out there and get the projects under way quickly," Attardo said.

    Annie Dabbs, a member of the oversight committee, said she hopes the money will make a noticeable difference in Union Academy, the traditionally African-American neighborhood in Tarpon Springs.

    "How much will $300,000 do when you're trying to work on an entire community? I'm not sure," Dabbs said. But, she said, "it will be an asset in the community."

    She wants some of the money to go toward repairing elderly people's homes and giving assistance to first-time home buyers. She also would like street lights installed throughout the neighborhood.

    Tarpon Springs and Pinellas County were among five applicants in the state to receive the $300,000 grant. Attardo said the city may apply again in future years.

    The city also has received a multiyear Community Development Block Grant, which will be used for infrastructure improvements and business development in Union Academy. The city is paying $100,000 to develop a master plan, and then will receive $300,000 a year for two years from the federal block grant program, which is administered through the county. During each of those two years, the city will contribute $100,000, Attardo said.

    - Staff writer Katherine Gazella can be reached at (727) 445-4182 or gazella@sptimes.com.

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