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      City of Florence gives $3 million toward downtown medical school

      Florence City Council voted to give $3 million to a medical school for third- and fourth-year students at Francis Marion University.

      Council gave approval for the facility during a special-called meeting Wednesday afternoon.

      The medical school is a total partnership between Francis Marion University, University of South Carolina School of Medicine, McLeod Regional Medical Center and Carolinas Hospital System, according to Florence Mayor Stephen Wukela.

      The total project cost $15 million and Wukela said the additional funding will come from the state and private partners.

      "The anticipation is that they'll be a medical facility, a medical education facility, which is basically a branch campus of the clinics program at the University of South Carolina Medical School. And that program will operate in downtown Florence. It will be about a $15 million facility with operations being funded by the state government, operated by Francis Marion University. And in cooperation with the USC, McLeod and Carolinas," said Mayor Wukela.

      He says the school fits right in line with the city's efforts to revitalize downtown Florence.

      "So what you're looking at is maybe 40 or 50 medical students downtown, along with another 200 nurse practitioners, physicians assistants, educators all of whom will be downtown and will likely live downtown. Eat downtown, drink downtown and bring dollars and vibrancy into downtown Florence," explained Wukela.

      Construction on the school is expected to start in 2015 with it being finished the following year.

      Council also voted to spend $3 million to revitalize neighborhoods in East, West and North Florence.

      The council voted to increase funding for the Pee Dee Regional Transportation Authority(PDRTA) by $65,000 bringing the total funding to $150,000.

      PDRTA officials asked the council for more money after the organization ran into money problems earlier this year.