Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.  An online newspaper

Columbia County/Lake City

The Blanche – The County Million $ – The County 5 Tonight: "To be or not to be? That is the question"

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – The Blanche Hotel Renovation Project is back on the County 5 docket tonight. The issue The 5 may decide is a simple one: will the County 5 be in favor of giving/lending Integrity Development Partners (IDP) $1,000,000 from the County's reserves? The County 5's May 7 meeting ended in confusion. One of the major issues brought up by County Attorney Joel Foreman was the need to get a written opinion from the County Auditor and financial advisor, Richard Powell, regarding the legality of an interest free loan to Lake City. Mr. Foreman never got that opinion.

Frisina Swings the Vote, Blanche Ducks a TKO – Lake City, County, Developer Regrouping (Part II);
Last Night The Blanche Ducks a TKO – Lake City, County, Developer Regrouping (Part I)

It was clear during the May 7 meeting none of The 5, nor the County staff, broached the topic of giving/lending IDP $1,000,000. The discussion revolved around a $1,000,000 arrangement with the City of Lake City.

County Attorney Foreman: I would feel much better with a written opinion

At the beginning of the Blanche discussion on May 7, it was County Attorney Joel Foreman who brought up the need for a written opinion regarding the discussed $1,000,000 loan to the City.

Mr. Foreman told The 5:

The question was posed to me, actually this afternoon, whether there would be any legal problems with doing an interest free loan to another local government unit. As I sit right now, I believe ... it would be legal to do so... In considering the question, I personally would feel much better advising this board if I had a written opinion from that auditor that more thoroughly fleshed out that question. I certainly don’t want to rely on telephonic communication and a first impression opinion on something that could be a significant issue for this board.

I’m more than happy to go solicit that opinion from the Auditor; have that prepared and present it to you, but as we sit here right now, I don’t have it.  And that will be a real point of concern I think for this board on a question that you should rely on.

Almost an hour into the meeting and after Commissioner Ronald Williams earlier told The 5, "I'm here to support the City and I'll vote to give them the money... The other part is between the City and the developers," Attorney Foreman told The 5:

Why don’t you just cut to the chase and express what you are in fact willing to negotiate... If you are resolved that you want to go the route of an interest free loan, as indicated before... I don’t think you can enter in any agreement for that till I’ve actually given you a defended opinion on doing that interest free financing... I don’t feel comfortable sending you in that direction without something more concrete from our auditor.

Mr. Foreman never got the written opinion.

Tonight is looming

Chairman DePratter

Earlier today, your reporter spoke with the County 5 Chairman Rusty DePratter and Commissioners Phillips and Nash.

Commissioners Williams and Frisina did not return phone calls.

Your reporter asked Chairman DePratter if he recalled any mention of a grant/loan to IDP.

The Chairman responded, "I did not hear any motion to lend IDP the money. There wasn't one."

Mr. DePratter continued, "If IDP wants to borrow the million from the County, there is much more work for them to do. We need to know a lot more."

Mr. DePratter concluded, "You know, I don't like any of it."

Commissioner Everett Phillips told the Observer, "When I voted at the last meeting, I voted against lending the money to the City. There was no question in my mind what the vote was about. I don't recall any discussion of a loan to IDP."

Commissioner Phillips added that yesterday he had received a call from IDP's Thompson [Kurrie – VP of Development]. "He called me to tell me we had an important decision to make and that if I had any questions I could ask him," Mr. Phillips said.

Commissioner Sylvester "Bucky" Nash was the last Commissioner to weigh in this morning.

Your reporter asked Mr. Nash, "Are you in favor of giving/lending IDP the million dollars?"

Commissioner Nash was to the point, "The way it is now – no; under the right circumstances – yes."


Tonight at 5:30 the County 5, County Attorney, Joel Foreman, the people's popularly elected county attorney, and the upper echelon of the County Staff will bring the Blanche back to the table for another go-around.

The County 5 will at the very least, have entertained a motion to lend IDP $1,000,000 from the County's reserves, or somewhere else.

Stay tuned.

Comments (to add a comment go here)

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


Make a comment • click here •
All comments are displayed at the end of the article and are moderated.


The CRA Master Plan is available here. (25Mb)

Links to more Blanche stories:

• May 14, 2015  Blanche Redevelopment Confusion: Com. Nash, "Everybody should get in a room and air it out"

• 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)

• April 21, 2015  Blanche Hotel Developer Equity Skyrockets 850%: What is The Real Investment?

• 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