TARPON SPRINGS — Dakari Phillips climbed to the top of the slide in the Mango Circle public housing complex. With a big smile that showed a hint of apprehension, he took the plunge.
Dakari's hands and legs were in the air and all that could be heard was the 2-year-old's hearty laughter.
For more than a year, Dakari and the nearly 60 children who live in Mango Circle have been without playground equipment after the 60-unit complex's previous apparatus was removed because of its rundown and unsafe condition.
But last month, the Tarpon Springs Housing Authority took possession of equipment owned by the city of Tarpon Springs and moved it to the complex. Pat Weber, the authority's executive director, said it cost $13,890 to move the equipment from Lime Street to Mango Circle.
"It gives all the kids something to do," said Cameron Barnes, 13, who lives in Mango Circle. "As soon as everyone gets home from school, they rush straight to the park."
The city had to move the equipment, which includes a slide combination set for ages up to 12 and a swing set, because it was on a parcel on Lime Street that is part of an $11.5 million housing project that the Housing Authority just started.
"It's a perfect scenario to see the partnership between the city and the Housing Authority to benefit the kids so that they can have a place to play," Commissioner Chris Alahouzos said.
Mango Circle first drew attention in April 2009 after a St. Petersburg Times story described the rundown conditions of the complex's playground.
A National Playground and Park Association inspector delivered a scathing report that said the site was unsafe for children, and the playground was removed.
The Housing Authority was initially reluctant to replace the playground equipment because it had applied for a federal tax credit that would enable it to demolish the complex and build a new one.
But the authority later learned that Mango Circle, which was built in 1973, did not receive the needed tax credit. The authority plans to reapply for the credit.
Demorris A. Lee can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4174.