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Contractor secured for standalone vocational school

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Soon residents of Hernando County will have an opportunity to attend a local, stand-alone vocational school. As previously reported in the Hernando Sun, Governor DeSantis – along with Hernando County’s Senate Sponsor – Sen. Wilton Simpson, have approved two separate funding bills that will make that possible in the near future.

The first state appropriation bill for a stand-alone Suncoast Technical Education Center facility came as a $9.3 million grant in August – an accomplishment that county administrators and school board members have sought since 2013. That year, $1.5 million in funding saw vocational training classes set up in two area high schools. The new stand-alone vocational school will serve both high school and adult students interested in learning a trade.

Rampant inflation in the cost of building supplies and added infrastructure items such as additional sidewalks and turning lanes saw the price tag for the new vocational school swell. The new structure to be located on a 17.94-acre property that the county acquired from the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport for $1,794,000 would require significant ancillary components. The facility, to be located just east of Gale Insulation, will include three entities : a government center, corporate college, and vocational education.

On Oct. 18, 2021, Gov. DeSantis was back in town holding a press conference to announce a separate funding appropriation amounting to $6.1 million to accommodate operational start-up costs for the Suncoast Technical Education Center, the corporate college and government center.

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Fast forward to January 11, 2022, and The Hernando County School District initiated a contract with Skanska USA Building Inc., an established constructor of commercial and public venues, in the amount of $7,850,000 to construct the county’s first vocational school. The project is currently in the design and planning stage and a construction start date is “to be decided” according to the contract. Sources close to the project say that construction should begin in April.

Brian Ragan, the county’s Director of Facilities and Construction, explained that the $7.85 million is for construction of the building and parking lots only and comes out of the $9.3 million grant which includes money for design, furnishings, equipment and other items necessary for the center’s operations.

The separate $6.1 million in state funding was given to the County to build the shared infrastructure required for all three entities that will be occupying the site including turning lanes, traffic signals, a road through the property, the extension of Helicopter Dr., drainage for the property, and animal relocations.

Ragan told the Hernando Sun that the rising cost of construction due to inflation has required the county to seek additional funding beyond the two appropriations in order to offset construction costs. The additional funding request is currently before the Florida legislature.

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