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One big step closer

After decades of wishing and waiting, it appears the College of Visual and Performing Arts will receive funding for a much-needed new facility.

Plans for a new facility were put on the USF Board of Governors’ three-year request list, which suggests to the state government what projects should receive state funding. According to Associate Vice President of Government Relations Jeff Muir, a presence on the list all but guarantees the governor’s approval.

“You’re pretty much looking at 100 percent,” Muir said. “I’ve never seen this governor veto something on the three-year list. That was an enormous hurdle.”

The BOG, a group formed in 2002 to run Florida universities without political interference, has been a snag for the college in the past. This year, Muir said, the board gave USF more flexibility.

“They said, ‘Ok, within these certain money parameters, you can do all the projects you want,'” Muir said. “That was helpful.”

Planning for the new facility, which will cost a total of $40.5 million, will begin immediately after next summer’s legislative session, Muir said. Construction should be completed before 2010, according to Muir.

The new facility will replace one that is unsuitable, according to School of Music Director Wade Weast. Mold and asbestos have been found in the past in the current building, which is 42 years old and built for 100 students. There are nearly 350 students in the college this semester, Weast said.

“I was elated to learn we got on the list,” he said. “Our flute teacher is teaching in a 6-by-8 prison cell with no acoustics.”

Faculty at the college have been waiting for a new building since the 1970s, Weast said, and are “cautiously optimistic.”

“(The faculty) is a little jaded,” said Weast, who has been director since 2003. “They’ve been down this road before. It’s one of those ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ cases. Just for my own sanity it’s important not to be too optimistic.”

Muir said USF President Judy Genshaft should get some credit for the new facility being added to the BOG’s list.

“She worked extremely hard,” Muir said. “In fact, she made many phone calls to a number of people in Tallahassee. One Monday morning at 6:30, she flew to Tallahassee when the BOG was having a search committee meeting and talked to them. She cornered a few people from the BOG and twisted their arms.”

Bush vetoed funding for a new facility the last two years because it wasn’t on the BOG’s list. Funding has passed through the state House and Senate the last two years, and Muir doesn’t expect that to change next legislative session.

“We fully expect, absent any totally unforeseen circumstances, we’ll get this taken care of,” he said.

Weast, who’s been the director of music since 2003, said a new facility will make the college more credible and provide a boost to morale.

“We’ll be a real school of music,” he said.