Stew Lilker’s

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Sports Dev Part IV: Ignoring the FL DEO Financed $29,000 Plan, TDC Votes for Secret Land Deal

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Part III of Columbia County Sports Development ended with TDC hotel owner Nick Patel wanting to put an unidentified and un-priced 40-60 acre parcel under contract for a flat-field multi-purpose sports venue, while agitated TDC member Mike Collins was asking for the location of the mystery parcel. In Part IV, the Observer reports on the TDC's machinations leading up to its authorization of the secret land deal.

County Manager Begins Walking Back the Purchase

Earlier in the meeting, County Manager Scott recommended the TDC purchase the property.

Now, County Manager Scott explained the property was on a list of properties previously presented to the TDC and reviewed by Clint Pitman, the Parks and Landscape Director. Mr. Scott did not explain the depth of Mr. Pitman's review, although it apparently was not very substantial.

Mr. Scott said, "Clint said, 'Ok, I think this would be a good piece.'... So it is a piece that we considered in the past. I think what Nick is saying, 'Go talk to em'. See if they're willin' to do that and hold it for a certain period, while we do the due diligence of seeing: does it have any wetlands on it -- is there anything wrong with it -- can we use the property.' Then if we can, once we get our sports marketing director hired -- he says, 'Ok, here's the way you need to lay it out... Then we can bring that back to you guys."

TDC member Cecil Shaw addressed the issue in tones so low it was impossible to understand anything he said.

While Mr. Shaw was talking, TDC member Mike Collins, in a clear violation of the Sunshine Law, got up and walked over to Chairman Williams and whispered, "Is the bank Columbia Bank? I can't vote on Columbia Bank. I'm on the board of the bank."

Chairman Williams whispered back, "Ok, let me ask him. I'll find out."

Chairman Williams got up and whistled as he walked over to County Manager Scott and whispered something is his ear. Mr. Scott and Mr. Williams whispered with each other for a couple of moments.

Your reporter looked over at Commissioner DePratter, hoping he would say something. When he didn't, your reporter said, "You can't be doing this. You can't be doing this at a public meeting."

Chairman Williams walked back to his seat, whistling.

Chairman Williams looked over to Mike Collins. He said, "Mike."

Mike Collins looked toward Chairman Williams. The Chairman nodded his head, 'yes.'

Mr. Collins said, "Ok."

Mr. Collins addressed your reporter, "Can't be doing what?"

Your reporter answered, "All this whispering back and forth at a public meeting. You can't be doing that and shaking your heads."

Chairman Williams Carried On, "We got a plan"

Chairman Williams came up with a plan of action. He said [as spoken]:

Here is what we'll do. We will -- I will entertain a motion to -- for Ben to appoarch the hole of the lane and see if they would hole that piece of property for us. And give us first refusal until we can do just what we talked about. Hire a - our marketing director. Layout a plan. He tell this board -- here's what we can do and here's what we expect this property can do by doin' this. And then we're not in the dark, speculatin'. We're doin' that work that Mike talked about and what Commissioner DePlatter said, 'I want to hear.' That way we got a plan."

Nick Patel recommended a letter of intent with broad specifications. It was not clear if he knew the location of the property.

The Making of the Motion

There is an ongoing systemic disconnect at the County 5 when it comes to the basics of making even simple motions. The Embarrassment Continues at the County 5.
Commissioners Williams and DePratter are both members of the TDC.

Chairman Williams asked County Manager Scott, "Ben, you want to word us a motion?"

There was a long pause. Mr. Scott did not offer a motion.

Chairman Williams continued, "Nick, you want to make that motion?"

Commissioner DePratter asked, "Do you need a motion just to do that?"

County Manager Scott spoke up, "I don't think we really need a motion."

Commissioner DePratter added, "I don't think you need this board to agree to that. I don't think you do."

County Manager Scott said, "I've got your direction, so I don't need a motion. I understand what your wishes are."

Commissioner DePratter said, "We're not going to vote on a contract today. I'm not -- you're not."

Chairman Williams Ponders: "Naah...."

Chairman Williams weighed in, "So by consensus we're givin' Ben the direction to try to research it. Naah -- I'd rather do it by motion.

Mr. Patel said, "There nothing wrong with having a motion."

Chairman Williams agreed, "Yeah.  I rather do it by motion. Then nobody can say, 'I didn't have nothin' to do with it.' You either vote for or against."

Your reporter said, "You need to put where the property is, in the motion."

County Manager Scott Won't Reveal Location:
We need to come up with a plan."

The Strategic Plan                    Download the Plan

County Manager Scott suggested a motion, "I think the motion would be for me to approach the property owner and to ask for a letter of intent, and to hold the property to [for] the county, until we could do -- till we can come up with a plan."

Chairman Williams: "OK. That's the motion."

Mr. Patel: "Second."

The County Manager can't make motions.

Chairman Williams said, "No, you have to make a motion. A board member has to make a motion. Nick, that's your motion?"

Mr. Patel:  "Do you want me to say it?"

Chairman Williams:  "Yes. Well he got the motion."

Mr. Patel:  "Do I second it or ..."

Chairman Williams:  "No - no. A board member has to make a motion."

Everybody Talking

Everybody began speaking at once. No one was understandable. Then suddenly, Chairman Williams addressed the board.

Chairman Williams, "All right, I got a motion and a second. I got one conflick[t] sustain from voting. Let the record show that Mike sustainin'."

Your reporter asked, "What's the conflict?"

Mr. Collins said, "My conflict is I serve on the board of a bank and that was the question I had. I don't know what bank it is? I could have that conflict."

Chairman Williams added, "He don't know what bank it is so he done declare a conflict."

Your reporter asked, "Where is the property? If you're not going to tell me where it is, about where is this property?"

County Manager Scott answered, "It's in close proximity to Lake City."

Your reporter followed up, "It's in close proximity to the Southside Recreation Complex?"

Chairman Williams: "Yes."

Your reporter:  "Within a mile -- two miles?"

Chairman Williams:  "We don't know."

Your reporter followed up, "We don't know where it is?"

Chairman Williams answered, "It might be three -- It less than ten miles."

Your reporter:  "Thank you."

Chairman Williams: "All in favor of the motion signal by sayin' Aye. Opposed like sign. One sustain."

The motion passed unanimously.

Ben:  "Thank you sir."

Ronald:  "You got your orders."


The citizens of Florida spent $29,000 for a Strategic Sports Marketing Plan for Columbia County. The County ignored the fundamentals of the plan.

Why wouldn't the County advertise that it is looking to purchase land, give the specifics, and weigh the proposals?

The secret land deal and the vote supporting the secrecy is the way Columbia County has done business for generations.

Columbia County Florida: the legend continues.

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