Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.  An online newspaper

County News

$1.4mil Coming to Columbia County, Courtesy of the National Debt: Job Creator Kept Secret

The Lake City Reporter makes up the news, again.

The final graphic of engineer Spivey's presentation asked for questions. She received silence.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last Thursday evening's meeting of the County 5 included a mandatory public hearing on the County's request for a Community Development Block Grant on the Ellisville Project, a project in which the County is giving away the farm for low paying ($9.25 hr.) – low skill jobs, and asking the FL Dept. of Economic Opportunity (DEO) to provide $1,399,960 of funding, which is funded through the increase in the National Debt.


The name of the company coming to Ellisville remains a secret and the "hometown" newspaper, the Lake City Reporter, a rural version of the old Pravda, made up what both County Commissioner Evertt Phillips and County Manager Ben Scott said at the meeting.

Chairman DePratter:
He Opened the Mandatory Public Hearing, Twice

About six minutes after the evening's County 5 meeting began, Chairman DePratter announced, "Next up we'll have a public hearing."

The public hearing was the mandatory second public hearing on the County's request for the $1,399,960 ($1.4mil) Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). The grant money, which comes from the Federal Government by increasing the national debt, is funneled into the State through DEO, and then distributed through the CDBG process.

Lynn Spivey

Lynn Spivey, the Arcadis wastewater engineer, gave a presentation in which she explained the funding and time line of the wastewater treatment plant package plant for which $1.4mil would be paying.

At the conclusion of her twelve minute presentation, Ms. Spivey looked up at her slide and asked, "So questions? I can go into as much detail as you like about the design or we can discuss the project. Are there any questions?"

Resident Ralph Kitchens said he had a question.

Chairman DePratter said he could ask his questions during the public hearing.

Ms. Spivey asked, "Are there questions from the Board?"

Chairman DePratter answered, "No." He looked around, "Does the Board have any questions?"

There was a no from a couple of The 5. It was impossible to tell which ones spoke.

Business As Usual:
The purpose of the public hearing was to ask questions about the project and the grant application and to provide input. The deadline for making the draft application available to the public was noon on September 28. The County met the deadline by seven minutes. However, the draft application was prepared three days before and held back.

Commissioner Nash, leaning back like he was at the beach, was barely audible from 10 feet away when he said, "No, I don’t have any questions."

Then, The County 5 remained silent.

The Chairman Opened the Public Hearing – Again

Chairman DePratter announced, "At this time we’ll open the public hearing."

Mr. Kitchens asked his question about the on-site fuel storage and Marc Vann, one of the County's quintessential good ole' boys, a member of the Economic Development Advisory Board, and the leader of the Vann Clan, thanked Economic Development Director, Glenn Hunter, for his hard work.

At the first public hearing, the Executive Director of the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council, Scott Koons, said the name of the company that was coming to the County would have to be revealed on the application.

Your reporter came to the microphone. Ms. Spivey located the section in the application for the Company. The company coming to Ellisville and providing the jobs was not named. In the space provided for the name of the company were the words: "The Company."

Your reporter asked the Chairman when the public would know the name of the company.

Chairman DePratter replied, “When the company decides. That’s when we’ll do it.”

Commissioner Williams interrupted and said something from across the room. The Commissioner generally refuses to use his microphone, doesn't ask to be recognized by the chair before speaking, and his remarks were incomprehensible.

Your reporter explained that his question could be best answered by the County Attorney.

Mr. DePratter bypassed the County Attorney and instead asked David Kraus, whose association with the project is not clear, for comments, “Mr. Kraus, would you like to answer that question?”

County Attorney Foreman spoke up, “Let me address that. It seems to be addressed to me.”

Attorney Foreman explained that the “Company” was protected by the Florida statutes.

Your reporter followed up, “Once the application’s filed, the name has to be in there, is that not correct?”

Mr. Foreman handed the question to Ms. Spivey, “I would let Ms. Spivey answer that – or Mr. Kraus.”

"In close communication with DEO, exact name not required"

Mr. Kraus popped up and said, “We’ve been in close communication with the Department of Economic Opportunity... At this time they are more than comfortable, as long as we reveal what the company is, where it is, and all those details – the exact name was not required.”

Arcadis's Spivey added, referring to the application and her communication with DEO, “It is a draft right now, so it didn’t need to be in the draft... When the application is submitted the name will be in it.”

Your reporter followed up, “When do you feel the application will be completed enough to be filed with the state?”

Ms. Spivey answered, “We’re hoping that in about two and a half to three weeks the application will be submitted.”

Shortly thereafter, after asking if there were any other comments from anyone, and hearing none, Chairman DePratter closed the public hearing and moved on to the other business of the County.


The next day, October 1, 2015, the Lake City Reporter published an article: Truck stop for Ellisville. The article's author, veteran reporter Tony Britt, and the LCR's editor, Robert Bridges, attended the meeting.

The highlighted areas in the article did not happen at the meeting. County officials did not mention the "the $8.5 million capital investment to the area."

The only word Commissioner Evertt Phillips (the second highlighted area) said at the meeting may have been, "no," in reference to Mr. DePratter's request for comments from the Board.

And finally, in the last highlighted area, County Manager Scott didn't say any of that at the meeting.

Editor Robert Bridges seems to be at it again, making up the news to make the hometown public officials look good: the Lake City Reporter – Columbia County/Lake City's hometown version of Pravda.

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

Meeting Calendar
No need to be confused - Find links to agendas and where your participation is welcome.

Make a comment • click here •
All comments are displayed at the end of the article and are moderated.