Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City News

The Blanche • The City steps up
Councilman Hill wants slow down (Part II)

The continuing saga of Lake City's Blanche Hotel took another twist on Monday night, October 19th, when the Lake City Council voted to continue to explore the purchase of the Blanche Hotel.

City Manager Wendell JohnsonCity Manager Wendell Johnson repeated again what he has been telling everyone for months, "My interest is the interest of Lake City. It [Blanche Hotel] is the downtown commercial heart of the city and the county.

Councilwoman Melinda Moses told the Council, "We can't just let the Blanche crumble."

Councilman Jake Hill responded, "Why haven't the owners been keeping up the Blanche?"

Councilman George Ward told the Council that originally the building was bought with twenty five investors. Over the years the revenues of the building have been declining and they have not had enough revenue to keep everything up and they were having to pay the city and county taxes; they were having to pay a substantial insurance bill on that; the revenues weren't covering the expenses and they were having to access all these twenty five investors – now it's down to four. Twenty one of them have dropped out of the investment trust. (It appears that what Mr. Ward meant to say was that there were only four members who actively contribute money to maintain the Blanche.)

Councilman Jake Hill
Councilman Jake Hill was troubled by the speed of the proceedings and the lack of information.

Mr. Hill told the Council, "The city is bailing them out."

Mr. Ward responded, "We won't be bailing them out. We will be getting appraisals and pay the appraised value of it."

Mr. Hill asked, "What would be the cost to renovate?"

Mr. Ward said, "That would be the county's to do."

Mayor WittMayor Stephen Witt told the Council, "I think it is necessary that we look into it. We want to keep the employees downtown. We do want to keep the downtown in good shape."

Mr. Hill was still not convinced, "I don't know if this is the way to do it."

Mr. Ward told the Council, "If we don't do anything then the building will probably go into default... We lost many buildings to fires. We certainly don't need to lose the Blanche."

After the meeting Councilman Hill explained his "no" vote to the Observer: "I voted no because I don't think there is enough information. I am looking forward to seeing a representative of the Blanche Trust standing in front of the City Council answering questions from the Council and the public. We need more information if we are going to use public money to buy the Blanche. We have to slow down and get the facts."

Links to more Blanche stories:

May 9, 2015  Frisina Swings the Vote, Blanche Ducks a TKO – Lake City, County, Developer Regrouping (Part II)

• May 8, 2015  Last Night The Blanche Ducks a TKO – Lake City, County, Developer Regrouping (Part I)

• March 11, 2015  Blanche Hotel: 6 Months & Counting – $14,000,000 Letter of Intent May Be Next Month

• Feb. 24, 2015  Blanche Hotel Train of Advisors Pulled into City Hall Last Night: Lots of Pictures - Not Much New

• Feb. 21, 2015  Blanche Saga Continues: $14,000,000 financing remains unexplained

• Feb. 3, 2015  Blanche $15 mil Renovation: CM Johnson Playing it Close to the Vest, "You'll know when I know"

• December 18, 2014 (Part II)  The Blanche: Johnson & Decker want inclusion "Anybody that wants a seat will have one"

• December 17, 2014 (Part I)  Lake City's Blanche Hotel: $15,000,000 Renovation Discussion Off & Running

• December 4, 2014  Renovation of Blanche Hotel on the Launching Pad:  Will everyone have a chance to participate?

• November 7, 2014  Lake City's Last Chance Hotel, the Blanche – Plans On the Way to the Columbia County 5

• November 4, 2014  City Manager Johnson: Working on a Plan to Raise the Blanche Hotel From the Dead

• March 4, 2010 The Blanche Hotel - The seventh inning stretch

 • Mar 1, 2010 The Blanche Group Bailout
Who are they? Where are they?

 • Mar 1, 2010  A Blanche Investor Interview

 • Feb 27, 2010  Structural Evaluation of the Blanche Hotel Now in the hands of the City Council

 • Oct 21, 2009 Conversation with Steve Smith -Blanche Investment Trust

 • Oct 21, 2009 City steps up • Councilman Hill wants slow down

 • Oct 21, 2009 The visit • The fire inspection

 • Oct 21, 2009 Go to Photo Gallery

 • Oct 9, 2009 City Steps Up To The Plate
Offers to buy Landmark Blanche Hotel