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Year in review: Pasco-Hernando State College has tumultuous 2017

With new programs, complicated community partnerships and abrupt resignations, Pasco-Hernando State College was busy in 2017, its 45th year in existence.

January began with administrators butting heads with Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco over the gun range at the college’s East Pasco campus police academy. It was renovated with a $1 million state grant the sheriff secured.

When Nocco asked the college Board of Trustees to allow officers to train there using lead bullets, the same ammunition used on duty, trustees said no. They mandated a more "green" alternative that would be less costly to clean up.

With the two entities unable to reach an accord, the Pasco County Commission approved Nocco’s request for the agency to build its own range, set to open next month. After approval for the independent range but before its completion, college leaders changed their minds, deciding to allow lead bullets at the police academy range. The Sheriff’s Office soon will have two ranges at its disposal.

"Is it any wonder why our constituents always think government is wasting their money?" Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby said amid the dispute. Simpson had helped obtain the state appropriation.

The college also had back-and-forth with the Pasco County School District while working to bring a performing arts center to the Wesley Chapel area. Funded by state allocations, the center originally was to become part of the college’s newest campus. But after lawmakers decided not to put any more money toward the center, the college stalled the project.

School district leaders offered property on the new Cypress Creek Middle-High campus, and the two entities arranged to bring the center to life together. They’ve begun to consider contractors and architects, and want to start construction in 2018.

About halfway through the year, college president Timothy Beard underwent a harsh review by the Board of Trustees that nearly cost him his job. Five members of the nine-person board were supportive of the president, but others criticized his decision-making, communication skills and ability to lead.

The board eventually gave Beard, who was selected for the spot in 2015, a yearlong extension to address their concerns. He said he would use the time to improve.

A month later, in July, John Dougherty — the board’s vice-chairman who came out strongly against Beard during the review and supported a failed motion to fire him — abruptly resigned. He told the Tampa Bay Times it was because the review created "an awkward situation."

In August, Steve Schroeder, longtime attorney for the college, resigned for what he called "purely personal reasons." The move came about a month after the Times received an unconfirmed tip that Beard planned to place the attorney on administrative leave. Schroeder served as Beard’s advisor while also representing the board that almost fired him.

That same month, the college opened a new, state-funded aviation program at its Dade City campus, where it now offers degrees in professional pilot technology and aviation administration.

In December, an effort by one professor at the college turned into a faculty-wide push for union representation, which adjunct professors also have joined.

Megan Reeves, C.T. Bowen and Jeffery S. Solochek, Times staff writers

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