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Seminole to promote vote on center

Seminole officials seek to get out the vote for a Sept. 14 referendum on borrowing up to $6-million for a Seminole Recreation Center expansion.

City officials and civic leaders have long been outspoken about the need to expand the Seminole Recreation Center.

"It was one of the first things they talked about when I came on board," recalled City Manager Frank Edmunds, hired in 1995.

The city has put many of the building blocks together to achieve that goal. Perhaps the biggest is a voter referendum next month on whether to allow the city to borrow up to $6-million to finance the project.

City officials are looking into ways to educate residents and get out the vote for the Sept. 14 referendum.

The expansion of the former church building would be, by far, the most expensive project in city history.

"We feel it is a very good project for the city," Edmunds said. "The building was not intended for recreation. We have tried to make do until we could have true recreation programs."

The referendum ballot also will include a proposed city charter change that would extend the mayor's term from two to three years starting in 2001, the year of the next mayoral election.

Edmunds said that advertisements will be put in local newspapers and that city staff is thinking about putting up signs across the city promoting the referendum.

A copy of the expansion plans has been left at Seminole Recreation Center, and proposed charter changes will be available at the center, City Hall and the public library.

Edmunds will discuss the plans later this month at a Seminole Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

"I don't think the chamber members have seen the final plans," said chamber executive director Pat Schmoranz.

"There's a general demand for recreation, because there is nothing for (teenagers) to do," she said. "There's a lot of things we don't have."

If it passes, construction would start in January, with the work taking about 18 months to finish.

The renovation will turn the old church at 9100 113th St. N into a true recreation center with a gymnasium, swimming pool and racquetball courts.

Edmunds said reaction has been "very positive" to the plan.

The city would borrow the money for the expansion from the Florida League of Cities bond issuance program. Seminole expects to get $10-million, or $1-million a year, in Penny for Pinellas tax revenues from 2000 to 2010, Edmunds said.

The City Council has earmarked about $6-million of that for the project.

Without the bonds, the city would have to delay construction for several years, perhaps even a decade, city officials have said.

"It has to be done one way or another," said Michael Hook, who lost in his bid to unseat Mayor Dottie Reeder earlier this year.

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