College buys Barker's old business

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Land will be for new Levy County campus

By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

The College of Central Florida is continuing work on the Jack Wilkinson Levy County Campus even though funding for construction of the campus was vetoed by Gov. Charlie Crist earlier this year.
The college's Board of Trustees has tentatively approved the purchase of about 3.5 acres of land along U.S. Highway 19 north of Chiefland for $575,000 from Levy County Appraiser Oz Barker. The property contains a metal work/storage building and an office building — with a combined space of 6,000 square feet — from a business Barker once owned.
Barker had sold the business, but the new owner returned the business to Barker, who held the note. Barker said he is relieved the College purchased the property.  "It was costing $2,000 a month to own and it has produced no income for two years," he said. The appraisal on the property was higher than the sales price he said, but Barker and the College agreed on the lower price. "Really they weren't interested in the buildings," he said. "They just wanted the land because it squares off the property and gives them another entrance for 19."
There will be a public hearing on the purchase on Sept. 28, Barker said.
The College has been collecting donations, including $2.5 million from the late Jack Wilkinson, for the campus. The college had a goal of raising $1.5 million for the $14 million campus with the remainder of the funding to come from the state Legislature. The college has exceeded the goal raising $4.5 million in gifts and land donations.
But a falling economy in 2009 thwarted the plans for legislative funding, and earlier this year when the Legislature allocated $13 million for the construction of the campus, Crist vetoed it.
Dr. Charles Dassance, president of the College, told the Greater Chiefland Area Chamber of Commerce that the college is continuing to pursue legislative funding.