LARGO — An $11 million special purpose center for St. Petersburg College's veterinary technology program is under construction on Ulmerton Road.
The 32,768-square-foot facility, which is expected to open in August, is next door to Pinellas County Animal Services. The close proximity should be beneficial to both.
In the veterinary tech program, "students learn to be nurses for veterinarians," said the school's dean, Dr. Richard Flora. The students will go to Animal Services for one of their work experience classes, Flora said.
At Animal Services, where the staff has been trimmed from 75 to 47 in recent years, instructors from the vet tech program will help fill the gaps, said assistant director Dewayne Taylor.
"That's a win-win," he said. "They can get their students trained, and we can get extra work done. It expands our capabilities, especially for services like X-rays. Right now the resources just aren't there."
The new veterinary technology center, at 12746 Ulmerton Road, sits on 12 acres that SPC acquired from the county in April 2010. It will have classrooms, laboratory space, surgery and X-ray suites, a computer lab, kennels and offices.
The move-in date is tentatively scheduled for July, and the center will be ready for classes in August, Flora said.
The vet tech program, now at 7200 66th St. N in Pinellas Park, offers both associate's and bachelor's degrees. Since its inception in 1975, more than 1,000 students have graduated, Flora said. Four hundred students are enrolled now.
The new center was designed to allow for a 4,500-square-foot expansion and a possible partnership someday with the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida.
Under that plan, veterinary students at UF would spend their first two years at SPC, which could accommodate them with a few minor modifications to the facility, said Susan M. Reiter, SPC's vice president of facilities planning and institutional services.
"We'll have to increase the size of the anatomy lab, because they (UF students) will be working with larger animals," she said. "We met with them in Gainesville and they've visited with us, so we've been working with them for several years with some type of joint facility in mind."
If the venture materializes, it would be a coup for the region.
It would also be "great for taxpayers," said Reiter, because "you're not duplicating labs" in Gainesville and Largo.
Sandra J. Gadsden is an assistant metro editor, community news. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (727) 893-8874.