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CF gets first chunk of money for campus

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Officials hope construction will be finished in 2016

By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

The reception room of what will, in a few short years, be the old College of Central Florida Levy Center was packed Thursday evening in celebration of funding for a new campus.

"Ten years, four veto pens, but we're there," was one of the comments made Thursday night by CF President James Henningsen.

Money for the proposed CF Jack Wilkinson Levy Campus has been stalled for some time, but Gov. Rick Scott signed off on the funding a couple of months ago.

The college will be getting $4.3 million as the first in three installments to construct the facility, which will be built on about 35 acres north of Chiefland just off U.S. Highway 19.

The facility, according to Henningsen, will, in total, cost about $17.5 million and is hoped to be finished in the fall of 2016. The main building will have a "Georgian style" look, which is an update to the design that was considered about 10 years ago.

"What I heard from the community is 'We want a signature building,' and this is going to be the signature building in the county, I hope."

Henningsen said it was the support from the community, college staff and legislators that made the deal happen.

In 2009, he said, the school had its largest donation of about $2.5 million from Jack Wilkinson, whom the campus is named after. In total, the campus got about $3.5 million in donations.

"That made the difference when we were taking it to Gov. Scott," he said.

Florida Sen. Charles "Charlie" Dean (R) was also at last week's event. He said he'd been talking about the proposed campus in the House since 2002.

"(There's) not many ways you can tell me no and I'll listen to ya'," Dean said, adding that he had attended Central Florida Community College in his youth.

"This isn't just some thing with me," he said. "It's a commitment."

There isn't anything that means more to the young people growing up in Levy, he said.

Florida House Rep. Charlie Stone (R) said the new campus would be drawing people from several counties.

"It's going to create opportunities for many, many young people in Florida." And it's a sign that the state places value in the area, he said.

Florida House Rep. and graduate of CF (1972) Dennis K. Baxley (R) agreed.

"All I can think about is the thousands of lives that will be changed as they come through here."