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Money okayed for downtown

The Brooksville City Council decided Monday night to spend at least$15,000 to help brighten up downtown, while Hernando County commissioners said Tuesday that they would like to help, but cannot.

The council voted to give the money to the Downtown Development Corp. of Brooksville, which is applying for downtown help through the Florida Main Street Program.

In the program, which is sponsored by the Florida Secretary of State's Office, cities are offered expert help in revitalizing downtown areas.

The three-year program costs about $40,000 a year, and the cost is

generally split among government agencies and private businesses. About half of the money is used to hire a full-time program manager while the rest is used to pay for promotion of the downtown area and recruitment of new business.

Bill Jeffries, president of the Downtown Development Corp., told council members that he will ask the Florida Main Street Advisory Committee to accept Brooksville for the program during a meeting Feb. 21 in Orlando.

Jeffries said that he expects Brooksville to compete with four other small Florida cities for one of three openings in the program.

"There's two cities that seem to be locked in because they have applied in previous years. They have all their ducks in a row, so to speak," Jeffries said. "We are competing with two other cities who have not applied before."

Jeffries said his group had received about $13,000 in pledges from downtown businesses toward the first year of the program and $5,000 in pledges for each of the two succeeding years.

If Brooksville is not selected for participation in the program, no money will be spent. But Jeffries said he probably would like to apply next year.

Jeffries appeared before the Hernando County Commission on Tuesday morning to explain the program. He originally planned to ask for a donation from the commission, but County Attorney Bruce Snow researched state law and learned that the county could not legally spend money in another jurisdiction without a detailed list of where the money would go.

"We can't just say, 'Here's $5,000. Spend it for the betterment of Brooksville.' We just can't do that," commission Chairman Henry Ledbetter said after the meeting.

But Ledbetter pointed to the construction of the county's new courthouse and administration building in downtown Brooksville as evidence of the county's continuing commitment to revitalizing the business community.

And City Council Member Joe Bernardini said Monday night that he also feels that the county has made a substantial contribution to the town.

"The county has made a big investment in downtown," Bernardini said. "They didn't have to put the new buildings here, but they did.

I think it's time that the city made an investment in this, too."

- Times staff writer Ken Zapinski contributed to this report.

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