Posted May 22, 2015, 10:25 am
Commissioner Scarlett Frisina was again the
COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL –
City Manager Wendell Johnson's Blanche Hotel
Redevelopment Project took a hit last night when the
County 5 voted 3-2 not to remove $1,000,000 from its
reserves and loan/grant Integrity Development Partners
(IDP) a million dollars interest-free. A convoluted
financial arrangement would have had Lake City make a
good faith guarantee of the IDP loan.
The project is not dead. On May 9, City Manager
Johnson told the County 5, "The
City don't want a loan from the County. I'm
sayin' that to ya because we don't need the loan
from the County. We got the money to loan
Posted May 21, 2015, 12:35 pm
COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL –
The Blanche Hotel Renovation Project is back on
the County 5 docket tonight. The issue The 5 may
decide is a simple one: will the County 5 be in
favor of giving/lending Integrity Development
Partners (IDP) $1,000,000 from the County's
reserves? The County 5's May 7 meeting ended in
confusion. One of the major issues brought up by
County Attorney Joel Foreman was the need to get
a written opinion from the County Auditor and
financial advisor, Richard Powell, regarding the
legality of an interest free loan to Lake City.
Mr. Foreman never got that opinion.
May 19, 2015 10:00 am
LAKE CITY/COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last night in
City Hall, the Lake Shore Hospital Authority
land-buying spree, orchestrated by Jackson P.
“Jack” Berry in the mid-2000’s, paid off for
Lake City, when the City Council approved an
Interlocal Agreement, previously approved by the
Authority, giving a city block of Hospital
Authority land to Lake City. The property,
including legal fees, demolition, and other
expenses appears to have cost the Authority
tax-payers over $700,000. Now worth $34,000, it
will be turned into a parking lot.
Posted May 18, 2015 07:20 am | Public News Service
FL - Florida postal workers have more on their minds
this morning than the heavy load of Monday mail.
The American Postal Workers Union contract is
set to expire this Wednesday. "There are people
out there who want to privatize the Postal
Service, so they're starving it of funds and
driving down service so that the profitable
routes can be picked off by private businesses
who stand to make a buck." ...
Posted May 14, 2015,10:35 am
COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL –
The byword for Lake City, City Manager Wendell Johnson's
Blanche Redevelopment Project has been "confusion." City
Manager Johnson's secrecy throughout the project and
Columbia County's Hapsburg-like rule has done nothing to
clear the air. At midday yesterday, County Commissioner,
Sylvester "Bucky" Nash, told the Observer, "I wouldn't
be opposed to everybody getting in a room and airing it
out. Let's roll."
Posted May 13,
2015 05:55 am
CITY, FL – Early last night, the Community Redevelopment
Advisory Committee (CRAC) met to discuss the City's
downtown Community Redevelopment Area. The City's recent
loan of $1.3 million will provide the funds to redevelop
the Lake DeSoto area, known officially as the Wilson
Park Recreation Area upgrade. City Manager Johnson
explained it was time that Public Works Director Thomas
Henry's concept plan move from the drawing board to
Posted May 12, 2015, 06:30 am
COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL –
Local customer care provider Sitel has just
announced the addition of more than 700 new
full-time career opportunities at its Lake City
customer service center. These jobs are in
addition to the 300 new hires announced at
Sitel’s Ocala location in late April. Sitel will
be hosting an on-site job fair at its Lake City
site, located at 1152 SW Business Point Drive,
on Monday, May 18 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
The Lake City Reporter
Got It Wrong
Posted May 11, 2015, 11:30 am | news/analysis
COLUMBIA COUNTY/LAKE CITY, FL –
Everybody is entitled to their opinion, but it
is good when it is based on reality. The Lake
City Reporter besides "misreporting" Thursday's
Board-Blanche vote, which was a heartbeat away
from having The 5 deep-six the
Blanche/IDP/Johnson Downtown Project, got the
reason wrong why City Manager Johnson attended
the County 5's Thursday board meeting and
ignored how he came to address The 5.
Posted May 9, 2015, 05:59 am | Part II: City Manager
Johnson Addresses The 5 |
COLUMBIA COUNTY/LAKE CITY, FL –
After the first 30 minutes of Thursday evening's Blanche
discussion, the proposed Letter of Intent between IDP,
Lake City, and Columbia County to renovate Lake City's
downtown Blanche Hotel was balancing on a precipice.
Commissioners Williams and Nash were in favor of at
least giving the City a million dollar loan.
Commissioners DePratter and Frisina were opposed.
Commissioner Everett Phillips was on the fence.
May 8, 2015 12:01 pm | Part I
COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – It was a rough ride for
Lake City's Blanche Hotel last night as the
County 5 met to discuss the Blanche
Redevelopment Proposal of Valdosta's Integrity
Development Partners (IDP). Seven and a half
months of secrecy, backroom dealing, lobbying,
and discussions culminated last night in
confusion, charges, and counter-charges. When
the dust settled, folks were headed back to the
drawing board for what appears to be the
Blanche's last stand.
May 7, 2015 12:45 pm | News-Analysis
COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Tonight, after
multitudinous meetings with the Assistant County
Manager, Ben Scott, and County Economic
Development Director, Glenn Hunter, Columbia
County's infamous County 5 will decide whether
or not to front Lake City at least a million
dollars on the derelict Blanche Hotel. Secrecy
and secret finances were a hallmark of City
Manager Wendell Johnson's time at the now mostly
defunct dismal failure, the $30 mil North
Florida Broadband Authority, of which he was one
of the financial kingpins. Johnson now is the
driving force in Lake City's Blanche project,
one that has ballooned from $13.5 mil to $17 mil
in seven months.
May 5, 2015 07:55 am | Op-Ed
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Ft. Walton Beach, isn’t the
only Tallahassee twerp to publicly disrespect
his elders and betters, but he’s the first in
memory to be called to account in the court of
public opinion. Gaetz, 31, got his law license
all of seven years ago and doesn’t have much to
show in the way of legislative achievements for
his five years in the House.
May 01, 2015 007:20 am | Op-Ed
Rick Scott continues to build a record that no
successor should be allowed to emulate. None
should even want to. But you never know.
Twenty-one times now, Scott has rejected lawyers
recommended by the Florida Bar for seats on some
of Florida’s 26 judicial nominating commissions.
The latest such act was on April 16, when he
refused the three people proposed for a vacancy
on the nominating commission for the First
District Court of Appeal.
29, 2015 03:55 am | Op-Ed
Once again, Florida leads the nation in a
sobering statistic. At least 42 of its people
have gone to prison, including one who was
executed and as many as nine who remain on death
row, after trials in which FBI “experts” gave
testimony that the agency concedes to have been
28, 2015 06:10 am | Public News Service
TALLAHASSEE, FL - New research suggests a team approach
is best when it comes to treating kids with Attention
Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). A new study
from the American Academy of Pediatrics found an
approach involving parents, clinicians and doctors
significantly improves the impulsiveness, social skills
and overall behavior of ADHD patients.
Posted April 25, 2015 12:01 am
LAKE CITY, FL – Local financial practice,
Gulf Coast Financial Services, Inc. (Gulf
Coast), was recently awarded Small Business of
the Year by the Lake City-Columbia County
Chamber of Commerce.
Posted April 24, 2015 08:15 am
COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL –
During the past 6 months the legal issues confronting
the folks of Skunkie Acres, the animal rescue
organization previously located north of Lake City have
been many. According to Skunkie Acres 83 year old
patriarch, Bernie Haake, animal control and DCF issues
"became overwhelming" after he was given a suspended 30
day jail sentence on April 15 and then a short while
later found himself in Judge Tom Coleman's Small Claims
Court. Mr. Haake's wife and daughter filed a small
claims complaint against the Lake City Reporter and its
cub reporter, Emily Buchanan.
Posted April 21, 2015, 10:25 pm
Updated April 22, 2015
CITY, FL – At Monday night's City Council meeting, the
Blanche Hotel was again front and center. City Manager
Wendell Johnson told the City Council, "This is not a
$17 million taxpayer project. This is a $17 million
construction project, which will be funded at about
50-50 from available government funds. They're
(Integrity Development Partners "IDP" – the developer)
gonna' come to the table with $1.7 million of their own
In September 2014, developer equity was "approximately
$200,000." The seven month increase is 850%. No one is
explaining the numbers behind the increase.
Posted April 20, 2015, 05:10 pm | News/Analysis
LAKE CITY, FL – City Manager Wendell Johnson was
a kingpin in the $30,000,000
North Florida Broadband Authority debacle, which he
abandoned at the 12th hour. Now he is the prime
negotiator in the Blanche Hotel downtown renovation.
Seven months ago, in September 2014, the IDP – Wendell
Johnson Blanche renovation was slated to cost
$13,675,000. The price tag is now $17,000,000.
Posted April 20, 2015 07:10 am
COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL –
Saturday's Columbia County School District (CCSD)
auction went off without a hitch. The surplus school
buses were lined up like giant yellow caterpillars.
Inside the warehouse were tables, chairs, kitchen
equipment, and screen printing equipment. Many of the
items looked new or nearly new. There was also a tire
changer, vehicle jacks, and welders. Laptop computers
and computer equipment that some folks came to
buy was MIA.
Posted April 17, 2015 07:20 am
COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL –
Last night, The Columbia County 5, in a 3-2
split, led by Dist. 4 Commissioner Everett
Phillips, turned back the Planning & Zoning
Board (P&Z) and voted in favor of quality of
life. The question before The 5 was: should
they overrule the P&Z's decision to change the
use of 110 acres from very low density, 1
dwelling per acre, to industrial. Randy Jones,
the County's Building Dept. Director, presented
nothing locating the property during the public
Posted April 16, 2015 06:55 am | Public News
TALLAHASSEE, FL - Florida ranks 49th in the
country when it comes to the rate of uninsured
parents, and a majority of them are employed.
That's according to a report released this week
by Kids Well Florida and the Georgetown
University Center for Children and Families.
Jack Berry and LSHA
get another free pass
April 15, 2015 10:10 am |
COLUMBIA COUNTY/LAKE CITY, FL – For decades, Columbia
County/Lake City's daily newspaper, the Lake
City Reporter, has been known as the Lake City
Repeater; the Lake City Distorter; or simply the
Mullet Wrapper, although the late Superintendent
of Schools, Sam Markham, used to say, "I
wouldn't insult my fish in that." The LCR's
report of Monday's Lake Shore Hosp. Authority
meeting twisted; covered up; or just made up
much of its reporting.
April 13, 2015 11:50 am |
COLUMBIA COUNTY/LAKE CITY, FL – Beginning in
2009, the Lake Shore Hospital Authority's
Jackson P. "Jack" Berry and Lake City's, City
Manager Wendell Johnson have turned a blind eye
to the plight of the handicapped on the Lake
Shore Hospital Authority campus in downtown Lake
City. The Authority Headquarters has missed the
accessibility mark for years. In 2009, City
Manager Johnson told the Observer ADA
accessibility/compliance was not the City's
responsibility and that if your reporter had a
problem, "You should find someone in a wheel
chair and have them sue," he said.
Posted January 28, 2011 011:55 pm | 30 day post |
Special to the Observer
puts his arm around his best friend Juno, a
rescued Belgian Malinoises. A combination of
prayer and persistence led Lucas' dad Chester to
Juno. “I came across a posting about her on a
rescue group’s website,” he says. “I had the
feeling in my gut that I had to go see this
dog.” The whole family made the two-hour trip to
meet Juno, who was being held at an east
Tennessee shelter. “She was emaciated, and was
days away from being euthanized,” Chester says.
“She had been surrendered to the shelter because
her previous owners didn’t understand the
Belgian Malinois.” Click the headline to read
the rest of the story. (Photo: Hembree family)
May 22, 2015 10:35 am | Op-Ed
A genetic predisposition to breast cancer is not
good news. Everyone has an opinion about my
breasts. I almost started a Twitter conversation
to keep it all straight: shouldtheystayorgonow.
For the first time in over 26 years together, my
husband fixed himself a drink.
May 21, 2015 06:59 am | Op-Ed
Though Weird Florida Tales can be fun, they’re
just a sideshow. The real action is with the
freaks, harlots and Sugar Daddies hell-bent on
wrecking the place.
Posted May 20, 2015 06:55 am
Simplicity is always in season for some
politicians. Cherry-picking what information to
share with the public is part and parcel of how
some of our most powerful elected officials –
Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli
and House Budget Chair Richard Corcoran, to name
a few – do government business.
May 19, 2015 08:55 pm | Public News Service
FL - According to a report released Tuesday by
the Annie E. Casey Foundation, of the more than
18,000 children in Florida's foster care system,
86 percent are placed within a family setting -
slightly higher than the national average.
May 18, 2015 07:40 am | Op-Ed
No Floridian likes to breathe dirty, unhealthy
air, but one type of air pollution – ozone – is
especially dangerous to our children, the
elderly, those with diseases like asthma and
May 17, 2015 05:35 am | Op-Ed
President Lyndon Johnson publicly declared “War
On Poverty” in 1964. In 2011, Rick Scott took
office as Florida governor and began waging
secretive, undeclared war on Florida’s poor.
May 13, 2015 06:59 am Public News Service
FL - While the rest of the country battles declining bee
populations, Florida is doing something right,
according to apiary experts in the state.
May 12, 2015 06:59 am | Op-Ed
No fewer than four of the 2016 Republican
candidates for president claim domicile in
Florida. Five, if you count Donald Trump – and
the head pelt-sporting Birther would hate not to
be counted, even if he’s not really running,
just promoting his new book. First, there's Jeb
Posted May 7, 2015 01:50 pm | Op-Ed
OCCUPIED TALLAHASSEE –
Which is worse: stupid and evil or smart and evil? It’s a
thought experiment: you can apply it to, say, George W.
and Jeb Bush, Rick Scott and Adam Putnam, the Florida
House and – Jesus, those idiots don’t deserve to be in
the same paragraph as the word “thought.”
May 4, 2015 05:45 am | Op-Ed
Just as House lawmakers were putting together their
annual “trains” – cramming multiple, tangentially
related bills into hundreds of pages of amendments so
they could pass them all at the eleventh hour – a funny
thing happened. They upped and quit.
April 28, 2015 06:40 am | Op-Ed
The onshore oil and gas industry has been under
heavy scrutiny during the 2015 legislative
session, as Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, and
Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, have filed
legislation to provide regulatory certainty to
the state of Florida that will ensure this
industry is appropriately regulated.
April 27, 2015 06:40 am |Op-Ed
The possibility that a medical marijuana
amendment could impact the 2016 president
election should be enough to motivate the
Republican-led Legislature to pass a medical
marijuana bill. If they do not, the chances of
Republicans winning back the White House may go
up in smoke.
April 24, 2015 11:45 am | Op-Ed
Case in point, the “mandatory abortion delay”
bill. If this bill becomes law, even when a
woman has already received state-mandated
counseling and made a deliberate and fully
informed decision, she will still be forced to
wait 24 hours. This serves only to further a
political agenda at the expense of women’s
April 23, 2015 07:45 am
the governor called in Republican senators one
by one to threaten a veto of anything
approaching ACA-driven healthcare expansion.
April 21, 2015 08:59 am | Op-Ed
OCCUPIED TALLAHASSEE – The annual Harlot Show
and Prostitution Expo – commonly called the
Florida legislative session – has been such a
wowsa so far, we’ve neglected to pay sufficient
attention to the mack daddy in the Mansion.
Posted April 20, 2015 12:25 pm
WASHINGTON - Today marks the five-year
anniversary of the worst environmental disaster
in United States history. The BP Deepwater
Horizon oil disaster claimed the lives of 11
workers and spilled more than 200 million
gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, wreaking
havoc on communities, economies, fisheries and
Posted April 20, 2015 08:35 am | Op-Ed
Two years ago, Gov. Rick Scott announced his
support for expanding access to healthcare in
Florida saying he couldn’t, “in good conscience,
deny the uninsured access to care.” Fast forward
to 2015 and he is opposed to a plan to close
Florida’s coverage gap.
April 19, 2015 07:55 am | Op-Ed
Dog-whistle politicians understand that most
people don’t want to think they are racist.
April 16, 2015 05:55 am | Op-Ed
The Florida Legislature has passed, and Gov. Rick
Scott has signed, an education reform bill that is
dishonest – and politically cowardly – at its core.
April 14, 2015 06:35 am | Op-Ed
Frat boys and football players raping young
women and young men is not a popular topic in a
town where the money-making machinery revolves
around Greeks and jocks.
April 13, 2015 05:45 am | Op-Ed
OCCUPIED TALLAHASSEE – The poor? The hell with them.
Education? Don’t make me laugh. The environment? Screw
April 22, 2014 10:10 am
“Suddenly there was a swarm of police officers
with rifles, shotguns and handguns aimed at me.
I saw one officer with a German Shepherd. It was
surreal. Nothing in my life had prepared me for
this moment. I stepped between Steven and the
cops. If they tried to shoot him, they would
have to shoot me first. Surely, they wouldn’t do