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Regent strengthens proposal to pay back money owed to county

RIVERVIEW — In an effort to strengthen the Regent's proposal to pay back $35,000 it owes the county, the events center's board doubled the down payment it is willing to make.

"I believe it shows a good-faith effort on our board's behalf to work with the county and county commissioners to accomplish what they wish," Brandon Community Advantage Center board chairman David Lemar Jr. said Tuesday.

The proposal, which commissioners expect to vote on at today's County Commission meeting, increases the board's down payment from $5,000 to $10,000. The plan calls for the down payment to be paid by Oct. 1 with the remainder due by Dec. 31, 2013. A 4.75 percent interest rate will be applied.

"I think that's a great help and I look forward to success tomorrow," County Commissioner Al Higginbotham said Tuesday.

The decision to double the down payment came after looking at the events center's recent finances, Lemar said, which have been lagging since its opening in 2010.

"Operations this year did, so far, give us a little bit of extra money," Lemar said. For the most part, though, the center has been breaking-even, he said.

All the controversy, he said, hasn't helped.

There is hope, Lemar said, that approval of this deal will help the Regent move past the criticism it has received since opening.

"I'm hopeful that is the outcome here," Lemar said, "that this can be resolved in a civilized manner and we can go about the business of running that place for the community."

The $35,000 debt stems from a county audit that found the money was misspent, out of $2.5 million given from the county's community investment tax fund. The Regent received nearly $7 million in local, state and federal money for construction. In June, Regent officials had offered to repay the county $400 a month for seven years. Commissioners balked.

Besides outlining a plan to pay back the debt, the new proposal also requires the Regent to hold at least one community event per month at no charge and allows for commissioners to make two appointments to the Regent's board, making the board's meetings public under the state's Sunshine Law.

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2442.

Regent strengthens proposal to pay back money owed to county 09/18/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 11:54pm]
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