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Historic look at a bargain price

The project to restore the old county courthouse has drawn loving attention from history buffs.

They have replaced missing Corinthian columns and won a hard-fought battle to save the old oak trees on the lawn.

Now, the county commissioners, who will occupy the building upon completion, are mulling another idea to recreate its historical flavor: They want to furnish their own offices with period furniture.

The price tag, however, would hardly be old time: up to $50,000 total, according to an estimate offered last week by County Commissioner Sylvia Young.

Tuesday, after pondering that sum, Young and other commissioners said the price tag will almost certainly be less. In fact, they asked for donations of period desks and chairs.

"I'm enough of an antiques, secondhand person to know that we can do a lot better than ($50,000)," Commissioner Ann Hildebrand said. "We're not looking for museum pieces."

The building, built in 1909, will contain the five commissioners' offices and a meeting room serving the county's east side. It also will house the county administrator and county attorney, whose offices would be similarly furnished.

Most of the officials spend most of their time on the county's west side. Young's district includes Dade City.

At a meeting last week, Commissioner Ed Collins was initially skeptical of Young's idea.

He asked whether the commission could move its existing furniture in the new county courthouse in Dade City into the old courthouse. However, he decided to go along.

Young said new office equipment can be expensive.

In fact, the County Commission decided to retain existing furniture when it moved into new offices in the County Government Center in New Port Richey two years ago.

The old courthouse is a different and special case, in part because it draws tourists to Pasco County, Young said.

"I think the idea is to make this a landmark for generations to come," Commissioner Pat Mulieri said.

Although Dade City is home to many antiques dealers, Young said she had no preference for where the furniture should be purchased, assuming not enough items are donated. She said she had also scouted an antique store in Lakeland.

The county commissioners Tuesday approved a plan to waive the requirement for bids for the furniture. Older furniture is rare, making bids difficult or impossible, they reasoned.

The resolution allows the commissioners to pick out the furniture themselves. Hildebrand said the county purchasing department should be involved.

In another matter Tuesday, the commission first agreed to rezone a 796-acre development in east Pasco called Lakeview Crossings, then agreed to rescind the vote.

At a hearing, neighbors complained the development would damage an unpaved access road. The commissioners approved the rezoning to allow construction of the development but capped the number of houses at 65.

The developer, Florida Technical Services Inc., sought permission for 85 units. Art Woodworth Jr., the firm's president, noted the original zoning allowed up to 1,193 homes, and he threatened to sue.

The commissioners then agreed they did not receive adequate legal advice before the vote and decided to reconsider their vote at a subsequent meeting.