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Seminole council votes to keep complex

(ran S, W editions of CTI)

The City Council's Parks and Recreation Committee is now in charge of arriving at a long-range plan for maintenance and programs at the controversial $2.5-million recreation complex on 113th Street.

That decision was reached with little fanfare Tuesday night, despite the council's long, spirited discussion of the recreation center last week. At that meeting, two members said they thought it would be best to sell the property and cut the city's losses.

The 15-acre property at 9199 113th St. was purchased in two parts over the past two years. The city operates a variety of programs there, plus a summer camp for children.

More than a dozen residents came Tuesday night to show support for the recreation center's programs. Debbie Stump, armed with hundreds of supporting signatures, spoke for supporters of the complex.

"We think it's an even bigger waste of the taxpayer's money for our council members to waste time going backwards," she said. "Your time would be more wisely spent planning the future of our community and looking on the positive side of the rec center purchase."

A majority of the council agreed that the complex should be kept. And Darrell DiGrazia, who had raised the issue of the sale, said Tuesday that he will back off calling for the sale after "seeing the impassioned plea of the people who want that building."

Questions about the condition of the building and about who knew details about the condition before the purchase have not been resolved, however.

Council member Ron Smith, who has been the chief dissenter with Mayor Holland Mangum on the property, said he will bring the subject up again when the mayor returns from vacation.

The mayor pushed for the purchase and negotiated the deal.

Stump took Smith to task in her comments, too, saying remarks he made last week about the mayor were uncalled for. A bickering council is an embarrassment to the city, she said, suggesting Smith publicly apologize to the mayor.

Smith said he probably won't apologize, but he won't press for more answers on the building's safety and condition until the mayor gets back because he doesn't want to seem to be "throwing rocks."

The Parks and Recreation Committee will meet Tuesday to discuss the complex.