LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Heading off what its chairman called “a big mistake,” the State College of Florida Board of Trustees voted unanimously Wednesday to halt work on a new library projected to cost up to $40 million.
Carlos Beruff, who leads the board, had signalled last week he planned to propose delaying the project, which was first started in 2008. At their Wednesday meeting, Beruff’s colleagues joined him in deciding to take a second look at the project, which would have expanded SCF’s current library to 146,000 square feet.
“History has proven we would have been making a big mistake,” Beruff said, after reviewing figures showing that SCF’s current enrollment of 6,175 is more than 3,000 students less than projected when officials first began work on the library.
The board had already cited technological advances in the past two years as a key reason to revisit the project. Board members also learned earlier this week that the state fund for school construction has no money available for projects statewide. That situation is unlikely to change soon.
“The outlook for the future of PECO (Public Education Capital Outlay) is pretty bleak,” said Carol Probstfeld, the school’s vice president for business and administrative services. “It’s going to be a few years before those things turn around.”
Board member Charles “C.J.” Fishman said the lack of state funds makes it sensible to revisit the library project and see if its design needs to be adjusted to accommodate technological advances like iPads, which could render features like computer stations unnecessary.
“The bottom line is we don’t have the funds anyway,” Fishman said. “We can take a step back and start looking at planning. I don’t have an issue stopping that process.”
The board’s decision means it will terminate agreements with architect Long and Associates and construction firm W.G. Mills. Board members Jennifer Saslaw and Craig Triguero questioned whether it was wise to move forward with halting the library project without knowing how much the move would cost the board; so far, the board has invested $200,000 in design fees for the library.
Probstfeld told the board she was hesitant to name a specific amount. “We would like to go back and have conversations (with the firms) rather than putting something out there,” she said.
Fishman emphasized the board’s decision did not have anything to do with the two firms’ qualifications or services. “This doesn’t mean the architect or contractor didn’t do due diligence,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we won’t go back to them and re-engage them.”
Follow Christine Hawes, Herald education reporter, on Twitter @chawesreports, read her blog “The Learning Curve” at www.bradenton.com, or contact her at 941-745-7081.