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Private citizens step up to raise money for 450th anniversary

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Updated: 12/17/2013 7:58 pm
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- St. Augustine's 450th birthday is getting a big boost from a group of private citizens who have teamed up to raise money for the celebration.

One of those citizens is Jeff King, a general manager at a local car dealership.

"I am very deeply fond of St. Augustine. I think it's really important to us to celebrate our 450th anniversary," said King.

King, along with a handful of St. Augustine residents, including former mayor Len Weeks, have formed a private nonprofit group called Focus 450.

Their goal is to complete so-called legacy projects as a birthday gift to the ancient city. But to do that, they need cash.

"Corporations can give money to a nonprofit group but they can't necessarily give it to a municipality," said King.

According to City Manager John Regan, without private groups like Focus 450 the city's anniversary wouldn't be the same.

"The amount of money that the city has in its budget for the 450th represents .06 percent, less than one percent," said Regan.

The city's 450th commemoration committee has about $300,000 in their operational budget. Regan said that's not even close to how much they need to complete various legacy projects.

That's where Focus 450 comes in.

"We have several legacy projects we are working to put together right now," said King. "One of which is the lighting of the Bridge of Lions. We have a street project for three streets in downtown St. Augustine, there is a children's museum we want to help fund on Riberia Pointe and the gates of the Tolomato Cemetery we would like to get freshened up."

According to King, the goal is raise $8 million.

"We want to create some lasting legacy projects that will be here long after that moment in time goes," said King.

Focus 450 plans on asking for donations from corporations inside and outside of St. Augustine. King says the plan is to have most, if not all, the projects completed by the 450th anniversary, which will be celebrated in 2015.
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