By B.C. Manion
Pasco-Hernando Community College officials hope to open the college’s planned Porter Campus at Wiregrass in January 2014 instead of August 2013.
Officials had said they expected a potential delay following Gov. Rick Scott’s May 26 decision to veto the fifth and final installment of $6.9 million for the $52 million project.
The state has already provided $45 million for the Wesley Chapel campus and that money is expected to bring the project to near completion, Lucy Miller, director of marketing and public relations, wrote in an email to The Laker.
The college will again seek the balance of the approved funding in the normal budget process for construction funds in the next budget year, the email adds.
The final installment will allow the completion of the project, preparation of the grounds, landscaping and the purchase of furniture, classroom technology, equipment and other start-up supplies and materials, Miller’s email says.
The college hopes to begin site preparation this summer, which includes grading the site to prepare for construction, installing underground utilities and constructing the foundation, the email adds.
“Gopher tortoise relocation procedures have already begun consistent with the permit issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,’ the email says.
Meanwhile, the college has filed a request for a variance to allow it to build a taller building than is allowed under the site’s zoning designation.
“The variance, if approved, will allow us to move forward with plans to build up, rather than out, reducing the footprint of the project to best use the land designated for the campus,” the email says.
The variance seeks permission to build up to 154 feet in height. The current restriction limits the height of the buildings to 60 feet.
“The variance request is consistent with the developer’s Master Planned Unit Development (MPUD) submission that is pending approval and the previously approved variance for the new hospital currently under construction near our campus site,” the email adds.
The tract of land is at 2727 Mansfield Blvd., just off SR 56, next to Wiregrass Ranch High.
The hearing on the variance request is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on June 23 before the Development Review Committee at the West Pasco Government Center, 7530 Little Road, New Port Richey.
After Scott vetoed the final installment of funding, J.D. Porter, whose family owns Wiregrass Ranch and supplied the 60-acre tract for the campus, told The Laker that he understood the governor had many difficult choices to make. Porter said he is confident that the funding for the college will be there by the time it becomes necessary.
Also, following the veto, Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, pledged that he will make getting those funds one of his priorities.
Scott’s veto drew the ire of Pasco County Commissioner Pat Mulieri.
In a May 16 email to the governor, Mulieri characterized Scott’s action as “short-sighted.” She informed Scott “the hospital, the college and The Shops of Wiregrass would create a synergy in that area.”
A new hospital also is under construction on Bruce B. Downs, just north of SR 56.
The new PHCC campus will have a nursing program, and nursing students could do their internships at the hospital, Mulieri informed Scott. She also noted that students at Wiregrass Ranch High and workers in the community also would benefit from having higher education offerings nearby.
All of these factors are important, Mulieri wrote, because “jobs come to counties that have an educated work force.”