Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Harris School

I wrote to our Governor, Jeb Bush, yesterday about the Harris School on Southard Street. (Or, rather, I e-mailed him.) I did so at the behest of the Key West Neighborhood Association.

You might recall my last post about the school last Friday. The Governor and Cabinet make final decisions about property acquisitions made from the Florida Forever fund. Last week, they approved expenditures from the fund for a variety of projects, but Harris School was not among them.

The FF fund is principally for the acquisition of land for preservation, but there is a category authorized that allows for the acquisition and preservation of historic properties as well. The Governor says that he doesn't think that the purchase of Harris School qualifies under the fund's guidelines. Bush told Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection Colleen Castille that pursuing the building is "way off" the mission of the Florida Forever Act, and that his position "has hardened" on that.

As you know, I am not a lawyer (IANAL). Perhaps acquiring Harris School is off-mission. Some think it is not.

I sincerely hope that a way is found to go forward with the purchase. It would preserve an essential part of Key West's history -- and the environment, which is more than trees, lands, and oceans. The use of Harris School as an arts and vocational center will ensure that another of Key West's real neighborhoods doesn't get 'developed' with more transient or luxury housing, or worse, as the locus of a new City Hall. The streets can't handle that use and neither can the neighborhood.

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