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School boosters nail down fence fund

The campaign to beautify the Dale Mabry Highway entrance to historic Plant High School picked up momentum this month. Suddenly, signs of support are showing up all over South Tampa.

"That's my goal," said Julie Palios, chairman of the committee of parents, students and alumni raising money to build a decorative aluminum fence to border Dale Mabry Highway, north and south of the school entrance.

Smith & Associates, headquartered a block south, was an early supporter. The real estate brokerage contributed cash, but also enlisted foot soldiers for the cause.

"About a dozen agents went to 100 businesses to encourage them to hang banners and signs to highlight the fundraising period," said Bob Glaser, president of Smith & Associates and a Plant parent.

The project, launched last summer to complement extensive renovation work at the 75-year-old school, was sidelined for several months in deference to national fundraising efforts.

"The events of Sept. 11 affected all of us emotionally and slowed the project," said Palios, whose husband and two daughters are Plant graduates.

During the delay, the group continuing to mine its resources. Henry Woodroffe, a Tampa architect and Plant parent, approached nine building contractors to see who might be willing to donate labor and materials.

"No one turned me down," said Woodroffe.

That generosity shaved the price tag for the fence to less than $150,000.

"The first estimate for $350,000 was if we had to pay for all the materials, all the labor and all the contractors' fees," said Palios.

Now the group need only buy fences, the gate and bricks. Donors have contributed cement, mortar, rebar and labor.

"We have truly turned this into a community team project," Palios said.

Greater Tampa Bay Construction agreed to coordinate the work at no charge. The company has been on campus for a two-year, $13.5-million construction project.

The other contractors are: Smith Fence (Tommy Smith, class of 1980), Hardin Construction, Mathews Construction, MK Construction (Bill Hardy, class of 1964), BECK, J.O. DeLotto & Sons, Beers Construction and Centex Rooney. All have done work for the school district.

An electrical switch box blocking part of the entry must be moved.

The fence design came courtesy of Tampa architect Sol Fleischman (class of 1964). He proposed a fence anchored to 40 large brick and precast concrete piers framed by twin brick towers. The name H.B. Plant High School will be formed along the top of a rolling vehicular gate in a traditional humpback design. Two Canary Island date palm trees will shade two built-in benches.

The committee has received $35,000 so far, including $5,000 from the PTSA; $5,000 from the Jan and David Banker Family; 17 individual checks for $1,000; $750 from the Weeders Garden Club, "and many smaller checks," said Palios. Contributors of $1,000 or more will be acknowledged on a bronze plaque in the gymnasium.

Construction is slated to begin June 3 and be completed by the time school starts on Aug. 7, "as long as we meet the target of $75,000 in the bank," said Palios. Landscaping may take a little longer.

For information, call (813) 272-3033, Eext. 514.

_ Amy Scherzer can be reached at 226-3332 or scherzersptimes.com.

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