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Ridgecrest leaders review status of goals

Last April, several hundred residents from the Ridgecrest area met with county officials at the Omni Center to discuss plans for the community.

The discussion included curbing crime, affordable housing and birth-control classes.

On Saturday, nearly a year after that meeting, community leaders met to assess their accomplishments and list goals.

What emerged was a long list of ideas: improve roadways, create a resource center, build affordable housing, combat drug dealing and improve the aesthetics of the neighborhood.

A housing fair also was held to help residents learn how to buy a home or acquire loans for home repair.

While small steps have been made, such as erecting street lights in Baskins, Oak Village and Ridgecrest, the bulk of the work has involved community leaders organizing into one group to attain common goals in the 11 communities that comprise Greater Ridgecrest.

"This is an opportunity for the community to grow and unify," said Lillie McGarrah, vice chairperson of the Greater Ridgecrest Area Board of Directors, the organization created last year that would directly deal with government officials on projects to improve Ridgecrest.

For example, county officials are working on a plan to hand over control of the Omni Center to the association from the Pinellas County Urban League.

County Commissioner Calvin Harris has said the idea was to have a group from the community with a vested interest in the center to make decisions about the facility.

Juvenile Welfare Board executive director Jim Mills said it had been difficult to work with Ridgecrest in the past because of the different groups.

"The real challenge was to get the many different communities working together," said Mills, whose board of directors awarded a $25,000 grant to the association last week to help establish a neighborhood family center and youth activities.

"They made a commitment to do that and they have made it."

The association is filing for non-profit status in order to take command of the center.

"We just want the best possible programs, and we're going to work together to get them," said Fran Scott, secretary for Greater Ridgecrest Area board.

Scott said the group discussed county plans to extend 119th Street to Ridge Road. They also want paved roads with sidewalks along 116th, 117th and 118th streets.

The association is looking for a liaison to work with county officials.

Scott said another focal point of discussion concerned ideas to beautify the community. Some people complained that many residents do not cut their grass or leave damaged cars on their property.

"We want to make it a place people want to move to and not away from," Scott said.

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