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Sports Dev Part V: Budget Workshop
County 5 Doubles Down on Secret Land Deal

The Columbia County 5 from left to right: Commissioners Ronald Williams; Rusty DePratter; Bucky Nash; Everett Phillips; Tim Murphy

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – For 7 minutes during Monday's June 26 budget workshop, the County 5 discussed what may end up costing the County millions, mentioning, then ignoring the directives in the recently approved $29,000 Sports Strategic Plan. The conversation was at its usual level of incomprehensibility as The 5 doubled down on the secret land deal hatched weeks earlier at the Tourist Development Council.

Cnty 5 Spends $3 Mil Plus on Sports & Recreation, Then Decides to Have a Plan


As reported earlier in Part I, Columbia Cnty Sports Development on the move: "Hire away somebody else's employee," the County violated the County Charter by calling a special meeting and not calling it a special meeting, and then voting to approve the hiring of a sports marketing director without knowing the salary.

Part II delved into the inventing of a sports commission, Inventing a Sports Commission – Ignoring the Plan, where the County 5 ignored the Sports Marketing Strategic Plan it recently approved.

Part III, Cnty's Purchasing Scheme, Putting the Cart Before the Horse, What Plan?, explored whether, before moving in a secret land deal to build multi-use fields, anyone in the County had read the recommendations of the consultants’ Strategic Plan, which recommended doing do a study and analysis before moving forward.

Part IV, Ignoring the FL DEO Financed $29,000 Plan, TDC Votes for Secret Land Deal, examined how County management walked back its request to purchase an unidentified and un-priced 40-60 acre parcel.

On Monday, the County 5, the folks that are Columbia County, discussed what it called "Recreation Enhancements: land expansion for "multi-purpose" fields."

County Manager Scott Began the Conversation

This was the only informational slide presented at the budget workshop about the land deal.

County Manager Scott: "The TDC made a recommendation to staff to research a piece of property for multipurpose fields. Staff has been trying to set up a meeting to discuss the possibility of a acquiring a piece of property for multipurpose fields and what the cost of that property would be. The individual that we needed to meet with was going on vacation for a while, so I think we're trying to set up a meeting with him next week. That's where we are at with the possibility of acquiring a piece of property for multipurpose fields."

During the June 7, 2017 TDC meeting, after County Manager Scott's request seeking approval to purchase an unnamed piece of property was shot down, he suggested a motion which would allow him "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."

County 5 Chairman and TDC Chairman Ronald Williams said, "OK. That's the motion."

After a tortuous route, the motion was approved.

The Strategic Plan                    Download the Plan

Commissioner Tim Murphy said, "That goes along with the findings of the strategic plan that the TDC presented."

In the Strategic Plan, the County was supposed to do a study before moving ahead with the building of any more facilities.

Commissioner Murphy asked about the hiring of the "new sports commissioner."

The Strategic Plan recommended the immediate hiring of a Sports Marketing Director, not a sports commissioner.

Commissioner Sylvester "Bucky" Nash, one of the prime movers of the millions of dollars of previous enhancements at the South Side Sports Complex, gave his take on expansion.

Commissioner Nash:  One of the points I wanna' make is and I'll get like input from the board is when you look at that strategic plan and you're talkin' about goin' out and gettin' a -- these open field facilities and you're doin' these things -- now one of the things is when it comes down to payin' for these thing -- ya know -- if the TDC -- ya know a lot of what we're doin' is to enhance people commin' into the community for economic growth that benefits the TDC and benefits the hotel owners and restaurant owners and different things like that. One of the -- ya know -- so -- when you're talkin' about revenue, and I'll ask Ben this question -- when you're talkin' about like increasin' revenue -- increasin' revenue for the TDC, when you raise that penny is that restricted for this?

The penny that Com. Nash referenced is included in the BED tax, a levy imposed by a local government on hotel stays within its jurisdiction. Columbia County is maxed out at 5%.

Mr. Scott answered, "It's restricted for TDC."

Com. Nash followed up, "Well, I'm talkin' about is it restricted for goin' like in fundin' open fields and (Mr. Scott jumps in)

Mr. Scott: "No, the board did not put a restriction on what that penny was for."

After a brief discussion about the statute that enables the County to collect the bed tax and spend it on tourism related items, Commissioner Murphy explained his earlier point, "That's my point I was tryin' to make earlier is that on that strategic results -- of course the point is pretty plain to me was that this is recommended -- this is one of our main shortfalls."

County Manager Scott told The 5, "... That's why if the TDC wants to go forward with this, it's an expense of the TDC, because it's an expansion for TDC, for tourist development."

Com. Nash: the TDC needs to pay

Mr. Nash followed up, "That's kinda my point. That needs to be determined up front, before we go buy a piece of property and then it's goin' to be "well who's going to maintain it?" If it's to benefit the economic growth within the TDC organization, they need to make that decision upfront."

Com. Williams Explains:  the understanding of the TDC, bank rollin', and TDC econ. dev.

Commissioner Williams: Two thirds of the TDC board understand that -- maybe one third don't. For some reason they're some think that there are TDC dollars here and it got keep bank rollin', bank rollin' from million to one point five to two million to two point five and just stays there. And Ben did a great job of saying what we're doing is enhance -- we do not need that as far as County recreation. You guys is benefiting from puttin' heads in beds. And to help put heads in beds increase your revenue -- you take the TDC dollars and you improve and keep these facilities up with help from the board of county commission. And it not all county commission, because we don't need to provide recreation for our citizen. This is a business that we're workin' in and the County passed that extra one cent in order to expand the opportunity for you guys to make money.

Commissioner Nash said, "I get it."

County Manager Scott Wraps It Up: Free Property?

County Manager Scott told The 5, "What staff needs to do for the TDC and for you is the first step is determining if there's a cost to the property. And then what's the cost for the facility itself...?"

Mr. Scott continued, "After we build it, somebody's got to maintain. Who's going to be responsible for that? I would recommend that once we determine there is a piece of property and we come up with a budget of what we're going to construct and how we're going to maintain it, then I believe that's time to have a joint board and TDC meeting."

That was the end of the conversation.


The $29,000 Sports Marketing Strategic Plan, a plan financed by the people of Florida, while given lip service, remains in the shadows.

Nothing in the Plan mentioned going out and acquiring property before a comprehensive study was done.

Not making it well known that the County is looking for 40-60 acres in the vicinity of the present sports complex is just the way the Columbia County 5 does and has done its business.

The Columbia County 5: the legend continues.

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