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City to buy shuttle for Brown center

The bus will help more children get to the community center on Brooksville's west side.

By DAN DeWITT

© St. Petersburg Times,
published October 17, 2001


BROOKSVILLE -- Residents have had only one major complaint with the Jerome Brown Community Center, which opened in May 2000: Its location.

The center is at Tom Varn Park in western Brooksville. To get there, many children in the city must walk more than a mile and cross at least one busy highway.

"Generally, they ride their bikes here and some of them live so far they can't make it. And sometimes the parents won't let the kids come because they can't provide transportation," said Rodney Byrd, the youth activities coordinator for an after-school program at the center.

African-American residents of southern Brooksville, many of whom live more than 2 miles from the center, have been particularly vocal on this issue.

Soon, a solution is expected.

The Brooksville City Council agreed Monday night to use part of a federal law enforcement grant to pay for a shuttle bus to bring children to the center.

About $10,000 will come from the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant that the city has received for the past several years.

This has typically been used to buy equipment for the Police Department, said City Manager Richard Anderson. Spending it on the bus, however, can be justified because it gives young people an alternative to crime, he said.

"Rather than hang out on the street corner and get in trouble, you get on the bus and go to the park," Anderson said.

About $25,000 is now available to buy the bus, said Parks and Recreation Director David Pugh. Other sources include grants from the United Way and Hernando County. The Friends of the Children community group also has raised money for the project.

He said he hopes to buy the 30-seat shuttle and have the service available before Christmas.

Tentative plans call for it to pick up children throughout the city after school, and then return them two or three hours later. Current staffers will drive the shuttle, so it will not be necessary to hire a driver.

"I think it's going to benefit everybody in the city," Pugh said.

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