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Crews return Hacienda courtyard fountain to its glory days

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Published:   |   Updated: July 30, 2013 at 01:56 PM

NEW PORT RICHEY - Restoration efforts at the historic Hacienda Hotel made a big splash Thursday as finishing touches were applied to the courtyard fountain.

New Port Richey Public Works Director Sherman Applegate helped workers John Hardin and James Bellino lift the ornamental cherub on top of the fountain.
Water started flowing down the sides of the fountain again in early July. But city crews have been piecing together missing parts to return the fountain to a condition similar to its glory days in the 1920s.

Applegate had heard various rumors about an ornamental top that remains misplaced after an extensive search. "We found pictures that showed it was a cherub holding something that appeared to be a flower bouquet," he said.

One section of the fountain had deteriorated into nine pieces. "We had to use a two-part epoxy to put all this back together and then I filled it full of cement on the inside," Hardin said.

The pillar for the cherub header had disintegrated into three pieces that were put back together.

"Then the cherub we had to buy," Hardin said. "We found a picture on the Internet of what it was and we went and found the closest we could get to it."
The plumbing posed some problems, but Bellino and other crew members figured out how to get pipelines to the fountain. The recycled water now flows round the clock.

Security cameras peering down at the courtyard and other parts of the hotel should deter vandalism, Applegate said.

Councilman Bill Phillips was among those who stopped by Thursday to admire the restored fountain, along with Councilman Chopper Davis and former Councilman Bob Langford.

Phillips continues to push for reopening of the Hacienda in time for tours by visitors to the 2014 Chasco Fiesta, to be held next March.

The landmark, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996, remains a crown jewel of the downtown area at Main and Bank streets.

Several hurdles remain, however. The city still must find a way to pay for an analysis of any major structural repairs for the building that opened in 1927.

Ordinarily, city leaders might look for money for the analysis in the Community Redevelopment Agency fund. However, Phillips said, the CRA fund could be in the red in the next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1.

The city would have to borrow from the general fund or other sources to pay the CRA deficit. City council has applied for grants, but that money would not be available until mid-2014 at the earliest.

With less than a week to go, an Internet pledge drive will fall far short of its goal. Even after a two-month extension to Aug. 2, the Citizinvestor website has collected pledges of $9,252 toward the $37,800 goal. If the entire amount is not raised, the crowd-funding site will not charge any of the people who have made pledges so far.

Pasco Economic Development Council President and CEO John Hagen remains bullish nonetheless that the money will be raised one way or another. The city hired PEDC to help with redevelopment after the CRA debt problem arose.

The city wants to build on the keen interest among the public to salvage the landmark hotel. Some 400 people volunteered during two Hacienda community cleanup days held in January.

corth@suncoastnews.com
(727) 815-1068

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