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Location sought for new library

The Friends of the Upper Tampa Bay Library have the cash to build _ $3.6-million _ but now the group needs property.

During the last year, advocates of a new library in the Upper Tampa Bay area have seen the idea grow from an abstract desire to a line item in the county's budget. Now, the next step is to find a place for it to call home.

"We're all looking for land," said Maureen Gauzza, president of the Friends of the Upper Tampa Bay Library. "We've got money, but no land yet."

In November the Hillsborough County Commission voted to dedicate a $5-million budget surplus to new library construction. The winners in the deal were library backers in south Brandon and Upper Tampa Bay.

The Upper Tampa Bay group came away with $3.6-million and a commitment to have the library up and running by 2004. That's two years sooner than a previous plan, which targeted the libraries' completion for 2006. "And if somebody could give us land, maybe it could even be sooner," Gauzza said.

Organizers are shopping for property in the 5- to 7-acre range, enough to accommodate a 10,000-square-foot branch library that could one day be expanded to 25,000 square feet, Gauzza said. As important as the location is the cost. Gauzza said the group hopes to convince a land owner to donate a parcel, which would free up more money for construction.

"If we got this in the right location, we want to make sure it has a good impact on the community," she said. "We're looking for a good home for our library."

County officials have considered land near the Town 'n Country YMCA site on Waters Avenue, as well as a site in Citrus Park.

"There are a few people we could be working with, and we're getting a list of properties we could be interested in," Gauzza said. "We're working with Countryway, Twin Branch Acres, Fawn Ridge and Westchase and all the association presidents. We're hoping the word will get out that we're looking for a property. There's a lot of good community people out there that love libraries."

_ Logan D. Mabe