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County orders audit of controversial Hillsborough community center

TAMPA — An auditor will review the decisions that led to construction of a controversial east Hillsborough County community center and whether proper safeguards are in place to ensure taxpayer money was spent appropriately.

Hillsborough commissioners voted 6-0 Thursday to ask the audit department of the Hillsborough Clerk of the Circuit Court to review the project, known as the Regent.

"I'd like to know who dropped the ball on this," said Commissioner Victor Crist.

Commissioner Al Higginbotham was not present for the vote, though the Regent is located in Riverview, which is part of his district. He was outside the chambers helping negotiate the departure of now-former County Attorney Renee Lee when the vote took place.

Construction of the Regent has been under question by critics who say it is too fancy of a building paid for with tax money. It features a marble exterior, grand entryway staircases, large columns, statues and other finer touches not often found in modern government buildings.

It was built using a combined $7 million in state, federal, community college and county money, including $2.5 million in sales taxes. A portion is used as classroom space for Hillsborough Community College, and the facility qualified for federal grant dollars because it can double as an emergency shelter.

HCC owns the building, which is run by a nonprofit group.

Area residents have complained that rental fees charged to use space in the building are too costly for typical community or nonprofit groups. Its backers say it was built so it would attract weddings and other special events, fees for which would help pay to keep the center open for other community events.

A spokesman for the nonprofit Brandon Community Advantage Center said the group admittedly hasn't done a good enough job making the building accessible and is working to address that.

County orders audit of controversial Hillsborough community center 06/02/11 [Last modified: Thursday, June 2, 2011 11:03pm]
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