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Columbia County Observer

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County 5 Borrows $8 Mil for Admin Building: Plans, Location, Space Needs – Unknown

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL –  On December 7, 2017 the County 5 borrowed $8,060,000 for a new administration building. Including the interest on the loan, the County's tax payers will pony up a total of $9,553,699 for the new administration building. The County 5, those entrusted with the primary fiduciary responsibility of Columbia County, have no building plan; no idea of the future admin building location; and just decided they need another space study to see what is going to go into the building.

Shortly after convening the January 25 Space Needs Workshop/Special Meeting, Chairman Tim Murphy told the County 5, "We've got here administrative office space discussion... I've been here for the last six - eight years. We've got to make a decision on which way we're gonna' go."

What is on the Table?

The County 5 presented Kail Partners of Gainesville with three options for new County office space: build a new building; purchase and renovate the old Bank of America Building; purchase and renovate the old Lake City Medical Center (home of the Supervisor of Elections and other County offices).

Kail's Danny Kail told The 5, "We took an overall bird's eye view, not based on a lot of information, but with the information we had. We were able to walk through the bank building; walk through the hospital building; and take a look at everything based on needs and square footage."

Mr. Kail continued, "The administrative space needs are to try to consolidate the various departments of the County into one spot. The options are a new building and two renovations."

The Properties:

Related article:
County 5 Abandoning Downtown Lake City: No Hearings, No Strategic Plan  October 21, 2017

The first property that Mr. Kail reviewed was new construction at a location that has been hawked by The 5 for over a year.

The proposed new administration building is not in Lake City and out of the downtown area; a longer drive for people who live in the south end of the county, and is thought by many to be better suited for industrial development.

The County proposed a 46,000 sq. ft. building. Mr. Kail's estimate to build the new administrative building, including all the associated costs such as construction, site costs, contingency and professional fees was $9,666,300.

The address of the proposed building site is 1533 NW. Lake Jeffery Road. Columbia County owns the property.

The second property: the old Bank of America Building. Mr. Kail pointed out that the Bank Building was 21,000 sq. ft.

Mr. Kail's estimate to acquire and renovate the old Bank Building, including all the associated costs such as construction, site costs, contingency and professional fees was $3,474,450.

According to the County space needs estimate, the Bank Building falls 25,000 square feet short.

The third property Mr. Kail reviewed was the old Lake City Medical Center. This is a 56,000+ square-foot building. Most of this building is currently being leased by the County and houses the Supervisor of Elections, Economic Development, the TDC, Code Enforcement and others.

See: County 5 New Admin Building – Another Moving Target

The building is presently owned by a land trust, whose members include Guy Williams, the brother of former long time County Manager Dale Williams.*

According to Kail Associates, the acquisition, renovation, and contingency costs for the old Lake City Medical Center are $10,270,000.

After the meeting, County manager Ben Scott said at one time the old medical center could have been purchased by the County for $800,000. He said County Manager Williams was against it.

All of a Sudden: Another Building

Real estate broker Janet Creel and member of the Lake Shore Hospital Authority announced that she had a building she would like to have considered. She announced to The 5, "My name is Janet Creel and I would like to throw our hat in the ring. We have 12,000 square feet.

Ms. Creel's building is in close proximity to the old Bank of America Building.

"You couldn't get a better site than these two buildings combined," she said.

Marc Vann, a downtown property owner, a former member of the Lake Shore Hospital Authority, and announced candidate to fill the seat of Florida representative Elizabeth Porter, recommended purchasing the old Lake City Medical Center, the old Bank of America building, and the just proposed Janet Creel building.

Mr. Vann recommended not moving the County administrative offices outside of Lake City. "There is too much going on downtown now for the County to leave it," he said.

Commissioners DePratter and Phillips Jump In

Commissioner DePratter told The 5, "Let's cut to the chase, I'm for buyin' all three buildin's... When you do the numbers it's just there."

Commissioner Phillips told The 5, "I'm with DePratter."

Long time Board member, Ronald Williams, did not articulate a particular position.

Commissioner Nash: Buying All 3 Buildings is "Crazy"

Commissioner Nash told The 5, "I don't believe you buy all three buildings. The reason you're saying you want to buy all three buildings is because you don't want to pick one, and make the other two mad. It's that simple... You are telling me you need 40,000 square feet today and you're going to buy 90,000 square feet."

Mr. Nash said he saw no problem with being out on Bascom Norris (outside of Lake City), "but I'm not hung up on it."

He was emphatic, "To buy 90k sq. ft when you need 40k. No business person would do that."

Chairman Murphy mentioned current parking problems.

Commissioner Williams said, "My mom said, 'Son, sometimes you got to drop back and punt.'"

County Manager Ben Scott told The 5, "The money that we have borrowed (8 mil), we can buy any building that we want to, as long as we don't have a tenant in that building."

The old Bank of America Building has a tenant.

Mr. Scott told The 5, "We need to get another space needs study with a space needs analysis."

Commissioner DePratter said, "I think I've sat through three space analyses since I've been here. I'm pretty disappointed that we don't have this on a piece of paper already."

Commissioner Williams added, "We do need a more accurate space analysis. I thought we had that. I'm tellin' ya, 'I'm bum funked that we don't have it.' By golly, we shoulda' had it."

Commissioner DePratter thought there was a paid space needs study done "when (County Commissioner) DuPree was here."

Nash Comes Up With a Plan

Commissioner Nash wanted floor plans of all the buildings and also one for the proposed site north of town, the one on the other side of the Bascom Norris Bypass.

Commissioner Nash concluded, "As far as Commissioner DePratter's plan, I don't think you buy three houses to live in one house. I am totally - totally - totally against all three buildings. That's crazy. I don't think there is a business man in this room that would buy 90,000 feet when he only needs 40.


It's back to the drawing board again for Columbia County's infamous County 5.

*Correction: Glenn Owens advised that he does not have a personal interest in the WSMDD Land Trust. The reference was removed. (Feb. 8, 2018 | 07:30 am)

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