The Blanche – The County Million $ – The County 5 Tonight: "To be or not to be? That is the question"
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.
It was clear during the May 7 meeting none of The 5, nor the County staff, broached the topic of giving/lending IDP $1,000,000. The discussion revolved around a $1,000,000 arrangement with the City of Lake City.
County Attorney Foreman: I would feel much better with a written opinion
At the beginning of the Blanche discussion on May 7, it was County Attorney Joel Foreman who brought up the need for a written opinion regarding the discussed $1,000,000 loan to the City.
Mr. Foreman told The 5:
The question was posed to me, actually this
afternoon, whether there would be any legal
problems with doing an interest free loan to
another local government unit. As I sit right
now, I believe ... it would be legal to do so...
In considering the question, I personally would
feel much better advising this board if I had a
written opinion from that auditor that more
thoroughly fleshed out that question. I
certainly don’t want to rely on telephonic
communication and a first impression opinion on
something that could be a significant issue for
I’m more than happy to go solicit that opinion from the Auditor; have that prepared and present it to you, but as we sit here right now, I don’t have it. And that will be a real point of concern I think for this board on a question that you should rely on.
Almost an hour into the meeting and after Commissioner Ronald Williams earlier told The 5, "I'm here to support the City and I'll vote to give them the money... The other part is between the City and the developers," Attorney Foreman told The 5:
Why don’t you just cut to the chase and express what you are in fact willing to negotiate... If you are resolved that you want to go the route of an interest free loan, as indicated before... I don’t think you can enter in any agreement for that till I’ve actually given you a defended opinion on doing that interest free financing... I don’t feel comfortable sending you in that direction without something more concrete from our auditor.
Mr. Foreman never got the written opinion.
Tonight is looming
Earlier today, your reporter spoke with the County 5 Chairman Rusty DePratter and Commissioners Phillips and Nash.
Commissioners Williams and Frisina did not return phone calls.
Your reporter asked Chairman DePratter if he recalled any mention of a grant/loan to IDP.
The Chairman responded, "I did not hear any motion to lend IDP the money. There wasn't one."
Mr. DePratter continued, "If IDP wants to borrow the million from the County, there is much more work for them to do. We need to know a lot more."
Mr. DePratter concluded, "You know, I don't like any of it."
Commissioner Everett Phillips told the Observer, "When I voted at the last meeting, I voted against lending the money to the City. There was no question in my mind what the vote was about. I don't recall any discussion of a loan to IDP."
Commissioner Phillips added that yesterday he had received a call from IDP's Thompson [Kurrie – VP of Development]. "He called me to tell me we had an important decision to make and that if I had any questions I could ask him," Mr. Phillips said.
Commissioner Sylvester "Bucky" Nash was the last Commissioner to weigh in this morning.
Your reporter asked Mr. Nash, "Are you in favor of giving/lending IDP the million dollars?"
Commissioner Nash was to the point, "The way it is now – no; under the right circumstances – yes."
Tonight at 5:30 the County 5, County Attorney, Joel Foreman, the people's popularly elected county attorney, and the upper echelon of the County Staff will bring the Blanche back to the table for another go-around.
The County 5 will at the very least, have entertained a motion to lend IDP $1,000,000 from the County's reserves, or somewhere else.