Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.

County Commission News

Columbia County Land Deal
$227,100 • Business As Usual

It’s business as usual in Columbia County with County Manager Dale Williams once again ignoring the county charter.

While Florida and many states are reeling under fiscal constraints, unemployment, cut backs in education and layoffs, the county manager’s latest surprise is a mysterious memo added to the agenda at the last minute, recommending a $227,100 expenditure for a piece of property somewhere in Columbia County on Birley Road.

It appears that Ben Scott, the county purchasing director, negotiated with an unnamed person or persons for the purchase of a piece of property for a community center. In 2007 the county only required 3.1 acres for the community center to serve District III. This could be what the property is for.

Of course, there is no back up or supporting information on the county web site, other than the mysterious memo.

There is no indication of what district this supposed to serve.

There is no parcel number or “owner” named. In the past this was “code” for the county buying a piece of property from one of the county manager’s friends.

There is no reason why the county needs to purchase 21.4 acres and the “extent” the easement.

There is no indication regarding the amount of fencing; how much the fencing will cost or why the property needs to be fenced.

There is no reason why the county has not negotiated the culvert as a cost to the owner, if it that is what is necessary to access the property, or whatever is being accessed.

Without a parcel number; without an intersection; without any landmarks it is impossible to know anything. It is unknown whether the appraisal was from the county property appraiser or from an independent appraiser – an appraisal that should have been paid for by the owner and would have been indeed, working for the owner.

There is no explanation, why in these hard economic times, the county is recommending that this property be purchased for 10% over the appraisal, or who recommended that negotiations be commenced.

There is no explanation why the county didn’t not request sealed proposals for county expenditure of over $200,000 dollars

It is the County Manager's responsibility, in accordance with the county charter, to assure that the information containing answers for the above had been posted on the county web site as back up material supplied to the County Commission.

Unless County Manager Dale Williams discussed the specifics of this land deal with each county commissioner, rotating them one at a time in violation of the spirit of the Sunshine laws of Florida, there is no way the Columbia County Commission could know what is going on.

Of course, there is once again no way for the public to know what is going on.

It is business as usual in Columbia County Florida.