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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Cnty 5 Temporarily Nix Jack Berry Hwy, Nash Caves to Nephew, Legislative Turkey Lives

COLUMBIA COUNTY – The 'Jack Berry Highway,' which has gone through a few name changes and is now officially called the Lake Shore Boulevard Access Road has gone from a $958,817 in 2013 to a $2mil plus project in 2017. The Observer has been unable to find any traffic studies; need assessments; or anything else which demonstrates a need for more access to the Shands at Lakeshore Hospital emergency room.


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Last night at the County 5, The 5 was faced with the prospect of losing money from its own road improvement projects should it go forward with spending a state grant of $410,000 to design the road.

County Chairman Ronald Williams introduced the agenda item for the design grant from the DOT as the "Road Through the Swamp."

Introduction

County Manager Ben Scott introduced the project. "This is the road that was proposed and desired by the Lake Shore Hospital Board."

The minutes of the Lake Shore Hospital Authority show Authority Board approval of what appears to be the access road in early 2013, where it voted to spend $958,817 on the road.

Mr. Scott continued, "The LSHA submitted to the state a legislative appropriation request for this road. I know that when I first became assistant county manager I was asked to draft a letter of support for this road on behalf of the county."

The County minutes do not reflect the LSHA asking for support, nor The 5 authorizing any letter regarding that project since Mr. Scott became Assistant County Manager.

However, in 2012, when Lisa Roberts was the assistant county manager, the County 5, on a motion by Commissioner Williams, agreed to set aside $40,000 for the project, pending contributions by the City and the "management of Lake Shore."

Today, the total estimated cost of the road is $2.1mil.

Mr. Scott explained that if The 5 goes forward with this road, which is in Lake City, the County may lose funding for some of its local road projects. He told The 5 they don't have to accept the money.

The County 5

Commissioner Williams said, "I don't see a need for it -- for a road through a swamp. They got a road already there now."

Commissioner Nash interjected, "That don't make no sense to me."

Commissioner Williams continued, "They already got a road around the lake... I got a good word for this one, but I can't say it."

Commissioner Nash moves to put the kibosh on the project, "I make a motion to decline the grant."

Mr. Nash's newly-elected nephew, Tim Murphy, who until his election to The 5 was a Governor Scott appointee on the LSHA Board and a Berry follower had other ideas.

Commissioner Murphy told The 5 he wanted to postpone the vote until he heard from Community Health Systems (CHS), the largest hospital corporation in America. Mr. Murphy wanted to know if the new road would be beneficial to CHS.

Mr. Murphy also pointed out that there are properties on the route that the Hospital Authority doesn't own.

Speaking under the condition of confidentiality, a source familiar with the area and the road told the Observer if the project goes forward, "There will be lawsuits."

Murphy said he was not in favor of putting the road through a swamp. "I agree with Ron (Commissioner Williams) a hundred percent."

Nash Caves Again

A sudden change of heart in support of his nephew, Commissioner Murphy, had Commissioner Nash withdrawing his motion so that CHS and others could appear before the 5 to lobby for the road.

Epilogue

Florida Tax Watch had rated the Jack Berry Highway or Lake Shore Blvd. one of the "Turkeys" of last year's legislative session.

The Columbia County 5: the Turkey lives.

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

On January 9, 2017, citizen49a of Lake City wrote:

Future commission candidates, I hope you are paying attention.

It may be difficult to capture the voters' attention and interest on many issues, but roads are not one of them

If you tell the voters you will fix their roads - not blow the money on a highway through a swamp nobody asked for like your opponent did - you will win.

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On January 9, 2017, Big Bird from Lake City wrote:

Dear Editor, After reading your article about the legislative turkey from Columbia County, I think this would be the 'dressing': You build that highway to go to Lakeshore Hospital then on around to the back of the Blanch, Vuala, "The Jack Berry Highway to the Wendell Johnson Blanch Building" which would then house the Columbia Cannabis Center.

Just think, 2 local heroes honored in one worthless project.

Follow the yellow brick road!                 Yours truly, Big Bird

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

 
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