Blanche Redevelopment Confusion: Com. Nash, "Everybody should get in a room and air it out"
Posted May 14, 2015,10:59 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."
Com. Bucky Nash
Since back in September of 2014, when the Integrity Development Partners (IDP) wrote its first Letter of Intent, a letter in which City Manager Johnson was involved, a shroud of secrecy and back room dealing permeated the downtown Blanche Redevelopment Project.
At every opportunity that IDP, the City, or the County had to "level-up," they didn't. The County's Economic Development Director, Glenn Hunter, was straight up with the information, but the County gave him short shrift and relegated him to the bleacher seats, where he could barely be seen and definitely not heard.
The Blanche Tsunami
Last Thursday's County Commission meeting turned into a Blanche tsunami. It certainly appeared that long-time Commissioner Ronald Williams understood what he was saying when he said, "We could enter into an agreement with the City of Lake City on the million dollar loan and everything else we don't have anything to do with."
After Mr. Johnson addressed the County 5, Chairman DePratter seemed to echo what everyone in the room heard, when he said, "I believe Mr. Johnson made it clear they're not interested in a loan from us."
After Assistant County Manager Scott added, "When he [Mr. Johnson] says, 'We don't need your money', he's not saying that they don't need the million dollars...," things got unhinged.
After County Attorney Joel Foreman jumped in, the canoe went over the falls. Mr. Foreman voiced his take on the motion. It was in two parts and appeared to be very clear.
Mr. Foreman said to Commissioner Williams, who had made the original motion, and The 5:
a) "Your motion is to support the one million dollar interest-free loan, subject to legal approval."
b) "Then to have staff, the Chair and the County Attorney further negotiate the specifics of all other parameters of the LOI."
Commissioners Nash, Phillips, DePratter, and Williams got it.
Com. Scarlet Frisina
Commissioners Williams and Nash, whose positions were clear, voted to give (loan-support) the $1,000,000 to the City. Commissioners Phillips and DePratter's positions were also clear before the vote and they did not vote in favor of the $1,000,000 to the City.
Commissioner Scarlet Frisina
Yesterday afternoon, your reporter spoke briefly with Commissioner Scarlet Frisina.
Commissioner Frisina said that by last Friday morning there was "a great deal of confusion."
Your reporter read back the first part of the motion, as articulated by County Attorney Foreman, "Your motion is to support the one million dollar interest-free loan, subject to legal approval."
Commissioner Frisina told the Observer, "That's not what I voted on. That's not what I understood it to be. If that's the case, then it needs to be redone."
Your reporter asked Commissioner Nash about a public discussion between the City the County.
Commissioner Nash answered, "I wouldn't be opposed to everybody getting in a room and airing it out – let's roll."
Your reporter, "Can I quote you on that?"
Commissioner Nash, "I have no problem with that."
Commissioner Nash continued, "Let's have a public discussion. It's the public's money."