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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lakeshore Hospital Authority News

Lakeshore Hosp Auth Manager Obliterates Bid Process Two Columbia County Commissioners win bids  

This story begins on June 13, 2011, when the Lakeshore Hospital Authority decided to move ahead with a 200 car capacity parking lot for HMA/Shands employees. Columbia County taxpayers will pay to build the parking lot and then the Authority will lease the property to HMA/Shands, apparently for nothing, giving them a free parking lot. Hospital Authority Manager "Jack" Jackson P. Berry explained to the Board that the lot would be fenced and parking would be on the grass. He said, "My estimated cost would be around $35,000."

Authority Manager leaves out half the story.
Was the fix in?

A little while later board member Marc Vann asked if Mr. Berry had gotten some prices. Mr. Berry said that he had gotten prices and that the price would be "a little less than $35,000." 

Mr. Berry explained that he wanted to bid the project in two parts, rather than request a bid for the whole parking lot. He said he could get the job done cheaper by bidding the job in two parts because he [Berry] could hire the fence company. Mr. Berry said that a contractor would have to go out and hire a fence company.

Mr. Berry told board member Marc Vann, "I'll bring you back some bid prices at the next meeting."

Mr. Vann asked, "You're going to do three quotes?"

Link: An index of LSHA articles is available here.

Mr. Berry: Yeah.

Mr. Berry did not divulge that he had already received two fence quotes a week before the meeting. One of them was from County Commissioner Rusty DePratter for $12,800.

Mr. Berry also did not divulge that he had already received a quote from C.A. Boone Construction on June 7th for the 420 foot driveway for the amount of $19,300. C.A. Boone is a real paving company.

On the night of June 13th, Mr. Berry knew that he could get the job done for $32,100 -- not the $35,000 he had stated earlier in the meeting.

July 11, 2011 - the Lakeshore Hospital Authority Meeting

Mr. Berry announced that the parking lot bid packet was in the board members' meeting material. As usual, Mr. Berry made no effort to make the material public before the meeting, or as it turned out, after.

Mr. Berry explained that there were three bidders for the parking lot: J.L. DuPree Construction, Register's Custom Service and C.A. Boone Construction.

Mr. Berry said, "These are pretty much the only people in Lake City that do this kind of construction now."

DuPree Construction is not listed on the Tax Collector's web site as being in the paving business. His bid was $17,036.

The Columbia Tax Collector sees things differently:
• Go to area fence companies
• Go to area paving companies

Mr. Berry continued, "On the fence, we really have only two fence people in the County now -- North Florida Fence and Fence Masters." North Florida Fence, Commissioner DePratter's Company was the winning bid.

The only other fence bid received was submitted a week before the June 13 meeting. That bid was from Randy Free DBA/Fence Masters. Neither Mr. Free, nor Fence Masters is listed on the Tax Collectors web site as being in the fence business.

There is no requirement in the purchasing policy of the Lakeshore Hospital Authority that mandates purchasing from companies that are located in Lake City.

Including Mr. DePratter, the Tax Collector lists eleven businesses as being in the fence business.

Even though on June 13th, when Mr. Berry was sitting on bids of $32,100, he summed up the bids this way: (There was) a total expenditure on the parking lot of $29,836, which come in about $5000 less than I thought it might.

The Hospital Authority approved the bids from both J.L. DuPree Construction and North Florida Fence, respectively owned by Columbia County Commissioners DuPree and DePratter.

Berry wouldn't give up a copy of the bid packet.
Were the bids sealed? 

After the meeting the Observer asked Ms. Sue Fraze, the Hospital Authority's longtime Office Manager if the bids were sealed and if there was a bid opening. 

Ms. Fraze said, "I don't know anything about it." 

Your reporter asked Mr. Berry if the bids were sealed. Mr. Berry said they were. 

Your reporter asked Mr. Berry if the bids were advertised in the paper. He said they weren't. 

Whether it be the School District Superintendent, the County Manager, the County Attorney, the City Manager, the Mayor, The City Clerk, the City Council members, or those appearing before the City Council or the County Commission, copies of information are always given freely if available.

Your reporter asked Mr. Berry for a copy of the bid packet: May I have a copy please?

Even though all the board members had left their packets behind, Mr. Berry replied, "I don't have an extra copy."

Once again, "Jack" Jackson P Berry is in a league all by himself, unless you count his protégé, County Commissioner Jody DuPree.

Mr. Berry dug in, telling the Observer that the only way a bid packet would be available would be to "come to the office tomorrow and put in a written request between nine and five."

Always a gentleman - Board member Marc Vann
The bid packet was not pretty

Mr. Vann reached over and gave the Observer his copy of the bid packet.

The information in the bid packet revealed no indication that there were any sealed bids.

There were no dates or names of any of the contractors on any of the information purported to have been produced by the Hospital Authority requesting bids.

There were also no envelopes showing that the bids were received in any kind of sealed condition. Nothing had a time stamp showing when the bids were received.

Commissioner DePratter apparently faxed his bid to the Authority and there is no indication how Fence Masters got their bid to Mr. Berry.

There is no material in the bid packet which shows either the length or type of fence being requested by the Authority.

Epilogue

When it comes to Columbia County's Lakeshore Hospital Authority one thing is crystal clear, it's time to completely privatize HMA/Shands at Lakeshore and just sell it. Sue Fraze (photo), the Authority's Administrative Director, facilitated the indigent care needs of Columbia County's population for years, without the interference, of Jack Berry, whose main claim to fame seems to be being one of Columbia County's good ol' boys, the past head of the Republican Party, and having State Attorney Skip Jarvis run interference for him to make sure he never has to prove what he stated his qualifications to be.

Folks will tell you that things worked fine before the Hospital Authority's Governor appointed board decided it needed a hospital authority manager.

It's time to save the $100,000 a year pay package of the unqualified Mr. Berry and put that money to good use. 

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

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