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Dade City theater's hopes hinge on grants

(ran PS, PC editions)

The self-imposed deadline passed at midnight Tuesday, but the dream of a community theater hung around on life support Wednesday.

A marathon conference call among supporters of a theater at the old Crescent Theatre site yielded new hope Wednesday that Dade City might help dig up financial backing. That, in turn, could trigger support from county commissioners, which could lead to a state grant.

"This is what we hope we can accomplish," project supporter Ginny Solberg said. "The momentum is there, the time is now. Never again will opportunity knock as loudly."

City commissioners on Tuesday voiced support for the theater effort, expected to cost more than $1-million, but offered no money. Instead, they suggested the city could help with grant applications to other agencies.

City Manager Doug Drymon said city staffers would work hard in the next few days to find untapped funding sources such as private and public grant providers, but he said no special City Commission meeting had been called to discuss the use of city money.

Drymon said the city understands the theater project's needs but is facing big bills ahead, including demands for better police and fire salaries and much-needed city hall improvements. Hunting for outside sources of money might be the best approach, he said.

"It's a tough issue to address, but I'm sure we can get something worked out," Drymon said. "We've got some calls out, and we're waiting to hear back."

Solberg said supporters would continue writing the application for a state cultural affairs grant, which requires organizers to match the requested $500,000, in hopes the city comes through. With more money, Solberg said county commissioners might be encouraged to come through with the rest.

Deadline for the state grant is Aug. 3.

"If we are not fortunate enough to come up with the money by Aug. 3, we've got to continue," Solberg said. "We're that close."