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Supporters line up behind renovation of Lakeview school

The Hernando Heritage Council is pursuing a grant to help turn the building into a community center.

By JORGE SANCHEZ

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 2, 2000


HERNANDO -- When a staff member from the state Department of Historical Resources spoke to the grass-roots group working to renovate the old Lakeview Elementary School in April, his advice was to get letters of support.

While holding a grant application from the Hernando Heritage Council, Frank Schiraldi of the Historical Resources office in Tampa told the group something was lacking.

"The first thing in this application should be a letter from (U.S. Rep.) Karen Thurman, along with the mayors of Crystal River and Inverness and lots of other people saying how much they support the project," said Schiraldi, a former Citrus County commissioner.

Members of the Hernando Heritage Council heeded the advice. The group mailed out requests for letters of support in May. The letters will be part of the application for up to $40,000 in matching state grants.

So far, letters from Thurman, Inverness Mayor Joyce Rogers and Crystal River Mayor Curtis Rich, as well as from many other elected officials from around the county, have been received. They will be submitted with the application in August, said Dan Armstrong, a member of the Heritage Council.

"We've got probably 30 or 40 letters," he said. "They include state Rep. Nancy Argenziano, members of the School Board, the mayors and lots of other people."

The Hernando Heritage Council seeks to renovate the old Lakeview school at County Road 486 and U.S. 41 N into a community center, using state grants and other funding sources to transform the school and 3-acre site.

Heritage Council member Chris Dudley said the movement is beginning to attract lots of supporters, particularly after the presentation in April.

They heard from Schiraldi, who said the grant money was available, but the process was highly competitive. Another speaker was Joe Gillie, director of Old School Square in Delray Beach. Gillie presented a slide show detailing the efforts which transformed a dilapidated school complex into a cultural arts center with an art museum, performing arts theater and banquet hall.

"What's happening is that people are starting to realize that this is doable," Dudley said Thursday. "And we're starting to get overwhelming support."

The Heritage Council received $4,000 from various doctors in May from a fundraiser, Dudley said. The medical group has pledged $10,000 to the cause, said Armstrong.

Electric service to the old building is scheduled to be activated next week, Dudley said.

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