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DuPree's $28,000,000 Events Center: Boondoggle in the boondocks put off for another day

The indoor rodeo arena will replace the present outdoor arena at the fair grounds in Lake City. The present facility is close to hotels, restaurants, malls, campgrounds and Lake City's downtown. The proposed site is at an off ramp on the interstate and 15 miles from Lake City. It is close to an S&S.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last night at Columbia County's fair grounds, outgoing Commissioner Jody DuPree couldn't stretch his promised three hour events/convention center presentation much past one hour. His $28,000,000 parting shot at the County Taxpayers, if approved, would give them a debt that would span generations, a place to have a rodeo, and give Ellisville, just a name at the end of an off ramp, some meeting rooms that are now available in the Holiday Inn and the Marriott in Lake City. Even though the meeting was billed as a "work shop" with no actions to be taken by the Commission, the meeting concluded with Commission Chair, Scarlet Frasina, asking for a motion to bring this up at the next County Commission meeting. The motion didn't fly and the boondoggle in the boondocks was put off for another day.

County Manager Dale Williams
County Manager Dale Williams listened intently to the words of outgoing Commissioner Jody DuPree.

Long time County Manager, Dale Williams, gave the County's side of the presentation. He did not look happy, but when one's bosses want a master of ceremonies, that's what they get.

County Manager Dale Williams told them again - It won't make money

"The facilities are seldom self supporting and will require financial assistance... The best management only provided 75% to 80% return on operating expenses... One day events do not cover costs unless rates are increased. It is not clear if the County Commission was listening."

Commissioner DuPree explained what an honor it was to be able to make his presentation and how all the committee members, a handpicked group composed mostly of Columbia County's good ole boys, were people of integrity.

Commissioner DuPree, a sometime supporter of free enterprise, showed once again that there is nary a politician that doesn't get into the swing of things when OPM (Other People's Money) is on the table.

Commissioner Jody DuPree
County Commissioner Jody DuPree listens to a member of the audience.

The outgoing Commissioner did not explain that the other geographic locations studied by the committee were not good matches to Columbia County and that so far over $40,000 of the public's money has been spent on consultants – only one half from Florida.

Commissioner DuPree did not explain that two parcels of farm land had already been chosen as possible sites for the project. The cost: $20,000 an acre. Com DuPree did not divulge the owners or that the prices were 2006 prices.

Like the Lifeguard Ambulance deal, of which DuPree was a ringleader, this project will also be subsidized with hidden subsidies: A tourist development tax; tax abatement funds; and mysterious interest earnings, as well as a $2,000,000 initial hit from the county's reserves.

• Download the Event Center Reports here.
County Power Point added on Oct. 10
Read why it can't pay for itself here.

The prime comparison of a comparable "multipurpose event center" was given as Bullhead City, Arizona. Population 40,000. Learn more about Bullhead City, here and here.

Google Ellisville, FL and one comes up with this.

On Wednesday afternoon, County Manager Williams told the Observer that there is the possibility that there may be USDA Grant money available for this project. CM Williams said, "It's just maybes. There is no simple answer and it will cost the County thousands to find out."


Two of the commissioners that have squandered tens of thousands of dollars on this project are up for reelection this November. Commissioner DuPree was eliminated in the primary, but is looking to take one last hit of OPM.

Board Chairwoman Scarlet Frisina has family members that are heavily invested in Ellisville, a community whose main claim to fame is a County subsidized utility system with a handful of customers, a new S&S convenience store, and the Baileys (Commissioner Bailey and families). Commissioner Frisina is up for reelection.

Ronald Williams has spent 34 years as a county commissioner. When it comes to feathering the nest of the County's infamous good ole boys, he is at the head of the class. He is up for reelection.

One way to make sure this hair brained scheme, this boondoggle in the boondocks, just goes away quietly away might be to seat three new county commissioners after the up-coming election. Give your candidates a call and find out where they stand.

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

On October 12, citizen49a of Lake City wrote:

The COUNTY MANAGER SAYS : "The facilities are seldom self supporting and WILL REQUIRE FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE."

"The best management only provided 75 to 80% return on operating expenses."

The BEST ONLY provided 75% to 80% return on operating expenses.

What was the AVERAGE or the MEDIAN return? 60%? 50%? Or even less?


WHY are these people who claim to represent the taxpayers of Columbia County EVEN TALKING about this?


On October 14, 2012, DMB of Lake City wrote:

Lake City really want something like that right smack in the middle of everything??? I’ve lived here in Lake City for several years and I love it for what it is. But if we allow this very expensive Concert Center to be built it WILL change Lake City for ever. And not for the good. Concerts?/!? Really??!! What about the noise? Traffic?? Litter?? Crime??  This idea has trouble written all over it. Sounds like a self serving project that will make someone a lot of money. Just not the taxpayers. So I ask again, WHAT CAN WE DO TO STOP THIS???  


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• Download the Event Center Reports here.
County Power Point added on Oct. 10
Read why it can't pay for itself here.

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