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Shows will go on at church

Harvest Temple church has won a battle with City Hall and will be allowed to present Easter and Christmas pageants on temporary stages without installing a $40,000 sprinkler system throughout the sanctuary.

The issue, ongoing since last Easter, was resolved by the Countywide Board of Adjustment and Appeals for Life Safety just as the church was preparing for this year's pageant, "The Light of Life."

The pageant, which will tell the story of Jesus' birth, life, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension into heaven, is to take place April 1 through 3, said the Rev. Dale Denham, pastor of the church on Walsingham Road.

Last week, the adjustment board determined that in lieu of the sprinkler system, the church can continue to hire a fire inspector and a firefighter, approved by the city, to attend each production.

The church also must allow no more than 1,000 people in the sanctuary for each performance and limit performances to six a year.

Denham said it costs the church about $1,600 annually for the extra fire protection. "We're going along without objection," he said. "This is my city. I'm tired of this fight with City Hall."

Dan Fries, Largo's fire chief, said he, too, is tired of the conflict that began just before last Easter when someone reported that a temporary stage in the sanctuary would not pass city building and fire codes.

Since last year, the church has spent at least $20,000 to resolve electrical code violations, Denham said. The issue of the sprinkler system was the last remaining violation cited by the city.