By B.C. Manion
When it opens for classes in January 2014, the Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch is expected to have the tallest building in Pasco County.
The college campus is also projected to one day have about the same number of students as Pasco-Hernando Community College’s West Campus — its main campus located in New Port Richey.
And, the new Porter campus is aiming to offer two bachelor’s degree programs.
Those were just a few highlights about the campus now under construction that officials from Pasco-Hernando Community College (PHCC) shared with the audience at the Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Committee meeting on March 28.
Because it is preparing to add bachelor’s programs, PHCC is also considering a name change, said Randy Stovall, provost for the college’s East Campus in Dade City.
The college’s board of trustees is considering four names that have been recommended and are also accepting suggestions from the public, said Stovall, who personally favors the name Pasco-Hernando State College.
Stovall said the community colleges that offer four-year degrees tend to change their names because “community college” has the connotation of being a place that does not have such programs.
As the new Porter campus continues to emerge from the landscape, the college is also preparing for the academic programs it will be offering there.
Stan Giannet, provost at the North Campus in Brooksville, has been named to the same position for the Porter campus, Stovall said.
Ken Burdzinski, PHCC’s vice president of administration and finance, provided an overview of the construction activity at the site, which is near the intersection of SR 56 and Mansfield Boulevard next to Wiregrass Ranch High in Wesley Chapel. He estimated the project’s cost at around $57 million.
Environmental issues were a challenge, Burdzinski said. The site had more than 60 gopher tortoise burrows, soil had to be brought in to raise it up to meet floodplain requirements and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had to get involved because a slough runs through the property.
Building the structures on top of the parking required thoughtful design, Burdzinski added.
There are many things people take for granted when a building is designed from the ground floor up, including being able to move enough people at a time, being able to bring equipment in and get it to higher floors and being able to work in a building that doesn’t have too much vibration from cars and trucks moving below.
“We’re going to have a nursing program, so we’re going to have gurneys and we’re going to have hospital beds,” Burdzinski said. That means the structure’s elevators must be large enough and strong enough to handle those types of demands.
Careful thought is also going into designing for sustainability, he said.
“We have built things to sustainable design standards in the past, but we never sought the actual certification that goes with that. We’re going Green Global,” Burdzinski said.
Because the site is on virgin land, the college must provide the necessary infrastructure, such as water, sewer, roads, drainage and parking.
All of the runoff will be kept on-site.
The parking garage will have 500 spaces and will use ramps similar to those used at Tampa International Airport, Burdzinski said. There’s also a surface parking lot with 189 spaces.
The site has been master-planned to ensure infrastructure built now — such as the chiller and the plant operation center — can be expanded for future needs, Burdzinski said.
Additional structures built in the future will also have parking on the lower floors and buildings on top, he said.
The campus will have a classroom building, a library and student development and administration building.
The project was about 30 days behind schedule because of rain. Crews have made up some of that time by working at night.
“Our highest priority for January ’14 is to have that classroom building built and to have the library,” Burdzinski said.
With recent concerns about sinkholes, Burdzinski assured the crowd that great care has been taken to ensure the building has a sound foundation.
The college researched various foundation designs. They went with one that involves drilling into the ground, dropping in rebar cage and filling that with concrete. In some cases they drilled down 120 feet.
“We have 1,017 of those pilings underneath that building. Hopefully it’s not going anywhere,” Burdzinski said.
The conference center and the plant operations building are being built to hurricane shelter standards. The conference center will be used for Pasco’s first responders. The plant operations building will provide a space for a secondary Emergency Operations Center for the county, Burdzinski said.
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