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The children will be ready, but will the renovated rec center?

(ran East, South editions)

Time is short. The pressure is on. Whether 240 children will be at Fossil Park's Willis S. Johns Recreation Center for Playcamp in June depends on how fast workers complete major renovations.

Contract completion date for the $1.1-million construction project is June 3. That gives supervisor Chuck Boehme and staffers five days to move in and equip the center. Opening camp day is June 9. "We're just hoping the facility is in complete enough form that we can do it," Boehme said.

The center, 6635 Dr. M.L. King St. N, accommodated 400 kids last summer. Many came from a city-run Playcamp at Rio Vista School that was closed for renovations. This year, Willis S. Johns will accept only 240 children. "Because of the uncertainty of the new building, we want to break it in," Boehme said. In the future, they'll accept up to 330 children.

Riviera Middle School is a possible alternative site if the center opening is delayed. Raul Quintana, manager of project design and development, is cautiously optimistic that the Fossil Park center will be ready the end of May.

An air-conditioned gymnasium with side and end basketball goals will anchor the east side of the building. To tie the old building and new additions together, there's a vaulted barrel metal roof over the lobby. Floor-to-ceiling windows will lighten the north and south entrances. There's a new locker room and more restrooms.

The designer is Wannemacher Russell Architects Inc. Interior colors will be burgundy on beige, said Lisa Wannemacher. "We chose more earthy tones to represent the fossil past," she said. The blue bands painted on the original building will be eliminated. She imagines the finished product as "sophisticated, sharp."

Two new lighted basketball courts already are in operation. The gym is sitting on the four old ones. "They (new ones) have acrylic coated surfacing," Quintana said. "They're probably the better courts in the whole city." To provide space for basketball, two tennis courts were moved to the south end of the park. Parking is being expanded to 92 spaces.

Seventy-five parents can breathe a sigh of relief this year. They took advantage of early-bird Playcamp registration at Willis S. Johns last summer. A $50 deposit assured their child a spot this June.

Summer Playcamp priority registration opens at all rec centers April 30. It's for parents of children participating in before- and after-care programs. "It's our way of saying thank you for supporting our year-round program," Boehme said. It's available for those entering first grade through eighth grades. Registration fee for 10 weeks is $280. Payment options are available.

On May 7, registration opens for all residents. On May 10, it opens for non-residents seeking remaining Playcamp spaces. Boehme acknowledges some have camped out the night before to secure a space: "That's the date they usually come out and try to be one of the lucky ones."

TEEN CAMPS/EMPLOYMENT: Looking for something fun for your middle schooler this summer? City Teen Camp may be the answer. Activities are geared toward those entering sixth, seventh and eighth grades in the fall. This year's five locations are Shore Acres, Frank Pierce, Childs Park, Walter Fuller and Wildwood.

Most centers accept only 60 teens. May 7 is registration for all residents. Those already enrolled in before- or after-school care can sign up April 30. The fee is $280 for 10 weeks. Call Teen Line 892-5060 for details.

Older teens may be looking for a job. Junior volunteer leaders are needed at all rec centers to assist with Playcampers.

"We love those young volunteers," said Chuck Boehme, supervisor of Willis S. Johns. "We try to send them on a lot of field trips." It's not too early to apply.

High school graduates are also being sought for 10-week Playcamp counselor positions. This job pays. Those interested must complete CPR and first-aid courses and undergo a background check and drug testing. To apply, talk to the supervisor of a neighborhood recreation center.

JUNGLE TERRACE: on secretary. "But it's no longer 50 mph." A speed plateau has been ordered for 71st Street, too. "Everyone on that street is real happy," Plice said. Residents have decided to try the same tactic on 80th Street N.

ANTI-DRUG MARCHES: Spring is a time to weed and seed, and that's just the philosophy anti-drug marchers are adopting. Thirteen sites in the U.S. District Court, Florida Middle District are following the federal Weed and Seed strategy. St. Petersburg is one of them. The targeted area is Fourth Street S to 34th Street, between Central Avenue and 30th Avenue S.

"Weed out the criminal element, the worst of the worst, to stabilize the community," said Susan Ajoc, Neighborhood Partnership coordinator. Then the police, human services, housing representatives and neighborhood associations can work together to provide enhancement programs. It takes money, though, and the city is turning to federal grants for it. City officials hope for $325,000 a year for three years.

There are four regularly scheduled anti-drug marching groups. Fossil Park Neighborhood will soon add a fifth. They're located in police District 2 _ east of Interstate 275, north of Central Avenue, District 1 _ south of Central Avenue, east of 34th Street and Historic Kenwood Neighborhood.

St. Petersburg will host the National Drug Fighters Reunion later this year.

INTERNET UPDATES: The board of the Council of Neighborhood Associations has voted to add a home page to the Internet. Three commercial providers have offered free service. CONA should be online in a few weeks.

Neighborhoods are being asked to design their own page and add it to the CONA umbrella at no charge. For information, contact computer committee members Conrad Weiser (Edgemoor Neighborhood), Steve Plice (Jungle Terrace), Jean Hammond (Wildwood Heights), Jon Clarke (Crescent Lake) or Tim Baker (North Shore). Call Barbara Ellis 866-2398 for phone numbers.

If you think you're computer illiterate, don't worry. Others share the problem. This week, resident Blanca Michaels told of a woman who called for a computer repair specialist on the Internet. She wanted to know where to get her computer coffee cup holder repaired. Coffee cup holder? After several questions, the highly trained technician determined she was referring to the CD holder.

Have a good week, neighbors!

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