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PHCC asks for Wesley Chapel site seed money

Call it Robert Judson's last request.

Less than two weeks before the retiring Pasco-Hernando Community College president relinquishes his seat, Judson on Friday again asked state legislators for $500,000 seed money for a new Wesley Chapel campus.

"As outgoing president, Wesley Chapel would be my No. 1 project," Judson said after a Friday breakfast meeting with state lawmakers. It was one part of a total $4.6-million in new state funds he requested for 2005-06.

The school already offers a handful of classes at Wesley Chapel High School and Victorious Life Church, but Judson has wanted to build a campus in the booming area for several years. About 1,600 of the college's students live in the area.

"The need is there," state Rep. Ken Littlefield, R-Zephyrhills, said after the meeting.

The college has been hoping to secure 50 to 100 acres of donated land in the Wiregrass Ranch area, near the future site of Wiregrass High School, to be built in 2006. But Judson said the landowner wants to see the state give PHCC money toward the campus before he signs away the property.

The $500,000 would be "just to let a particular property owner know we are interested in putting a campus there," Littlefield said to fellow legislators later.

This is the second time Judson has made the plea.

Though legislators approved sending a half-million dollars to PHCC for the cause last year, Gov. Jeb Bush ended up vetoing the expenditure along with $349-million he slashed from the Legislature-approved 2005 budget. The total cost of building a new campus is expected to be $16.5-million, Judson said. The school already has campuses in New Port Richey, Dade City, Brooksville and a center at Spring Hill.

PHCC's other legislative requests included:

+ The right to raise the student fee for capital improvement from $1 per credit hour to close to $5 per credit hour at PHCC over the next few years. Now, PHCC students pay about $47 per credit hour plus $10 per credit hour in fees. Only $1 of that now goes to capital improvements, this year generating $160,000 for capital expenses.

+ $4.1-million for various renovation projects, including $624,000 in planning money to expand the new Spring Hill site.

Times staff writer Bridget Hall Grumet contributed to this report. Rebecca Catalanello covers education in Pasco County. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6241 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6241. Her e-mail address is rcatalanellosptimes.com.

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