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    City still cobbling together funds for community center

    Dunedin officials will discuss where to find the money for a new facility site.

    By LEON M. TUCKER

    © St. Petersburg Times, published October 31, 2000


    DUNEDIN -- When the Dunedin Community Center turns 30 next year, the floors may have more cracks, the kitchen appliances more rust and the roof more leaks.

    Convinced even two years ago that the city needed a new center, city leaders put it off because the money wasn't there -- and it still isn't.

    But they haven't given up.

    On Thursday, city commissioners will look at the possibility of applying for state grants and talk about other ways to pay for a new community center to replace the crumbling structure that some say is outdated.

    "We just want to talk about it," said City Manager John Lawrence. "We don't want to put it on the back burner where it is 10 years off. We want to keep it as a doable item."

    In 1998, the city considered using revenue from "Penny for Pinellas" sales taxes to finance the project but held off because the tax money was budgeted for other city projects.

    But now, Lawrence said, the city will look at pursuing state grants to go ahead with tearing down and rebuilding a proposed $10.2-million facility on the existing site.

    Community center and city officials agree the building at 1141 Michigan Blvd. has seen better days -- citing problems with its air conditioning and the structure's ability to continue accommodating the more than 155,000 people who used it last year.

    "We had a family night with 350 people here when the air (conditioning) went out," said Lillian "Lolly" Adkison, program coordinator. "It was like a Baptist revival in here with people fanning themselves. When it was new it was nice. It's just worn itself out."

    The building was built in 1971 and over the years has offered programs and classes in the performing arts and athletics. It also has been available for private functions such as wedding receptions and banquets.

    Harvard Jolly Clees Toppe Architects in St. Petersburg conducted a facility assessment and concluded the center also had problems with plumbing, insulation and lighting.

    "The existing configuration and structural system of the classroom pods, courtyard and auditorium are rigid," Harvard Jolly vice president James Shawhan wrote to the city. "The structural system is low and not flexible to accommodate the community center's growing programs."

    Harry Gross, director of leisure services, said he also would like the center to have a new gymnasium, auditorium, box office and kitchen.

    "Just looking at all the things we would like to do with the community center, it just seems to make a lot of sense to start over," Gross said. "I'd like to start the planning as soon as possible, but we're just kind of beating the bushes to see if there are some funding sources we can use."

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