Columbia County's $28,000,000 Events Center: Com DuPree's parting shot at County taxpayers
Posted October 05, 2012 8:10 pm
One hour and three minutes up I 75 is the competition. Valdosta Conference Center
COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Looking to part Columbia County taxpayers with their money is nothing new for Florida's legendary premier good ole boy county, but the proposed $28,000,000 convention center, which is being pushed by outgoing County Commissioner Jody DuPree and his group of handpicked fellow committee members, may well be the biggest hair brained scheme in the history of North Central Florida.
County Chairwoman Scarlet Frisina scheduled a special County Commission meeting for next Tuesday night, October 9th, at 6 pm at the County Fair Grounds off US 90 to discuss this project.
District III candidate, Mike Gordon, asked for the meeting to be rescheduled, to no avail.
At last night's County Commission meeting, Mike Gordon, who is in the runoff for Com DuPree's soon to be vacant seat, asked the Commission to schedule the presentation on the night of a regular County Commission meeting.
Mr. Gordon was blown off and told there wasn't enough time.
Recently, the County Commission approved $45,000 for an outside consultant, not including expenses, to build a model and do a feasibility study for the DuPree proposed so called county events center.
Last year, Columbia County hired an in house economic development expert, Jesse Quillen, to be its Economic Development Director for $110,000 a year. Mr. Quillen was clearly capable of doing an impact study and running the numbers on the kind of project that Com DuPree and the County Commission paid outside contractors tens of thousands of dollars to do. Nobody asked him to do it.
A Little History
On July 20, 2011, County Manager Dale Williams, after doing is own fact finding with Senior Staff Assistant, David Kraus, told the Tourist Development Council (TDC):
These facilities are seldom self-supporting and will require financial assistance... The best management only provided 75 to 80% return on operating expenses... One day events do not cover costs... Concerts do not make a profit... and outdoor only events, such as car shows, are not as profitable for a facility [as other events]." ($10 – $20 – $30 Million? Financing Unclear...)
That wasn't good enough for Columbia County's good ole boys led by the now departing County Commissioner, Jody DuPree.
The County's newly hired Consultant found that the events center would be self supporting in its second year.
A report, dated October 9th and prepared by the DuPree Committee, shows that the financing will be a $6,000,000 bank loan and a $23,000,000 bond issue, guaranteed ultimately by the residents of Columbia County.
$2,000,000 from County reserves
The report states: It is anticipated that the development period will encompass approximately two years and be concluded by September, 2014. During this period there will be an additional required subsidy from County reserves to fully pay the debt service payments on the acquired debt. This subsidy should be no more than $2,000,000 in total during the first five years, and be eliminated thereafter.
That $2,000,000 dollars belongs to the residents of Columbia County.
Commissioner DuPree, whose own finances have been challenged, now wants to put, with a little help from his friends, the County's finances in the same boat.
In Columbia County, sometimes you pay a little extra and hire an outside consultant to get the results that you want.