Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.  An online news service

County News

Olustee Park & Monument:  County Attorney Foreman Says, “‘Give (Lake) City a deed,’ and make them say no.”

Columbia County Observer photo

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Thursday’s March 18, 2021, meeting of the County 5 was just about wound out when at 2 hours and 29 minutes Commissioner Ron Williams and County Attorney Joel Foreman both brought up the ownership of Olustee Park.

As the last City Council meeting drew to a close, City Manager Joe Helfenberger brought to the City Council's attention that Columbia County-owned Olustee Park.

See: Lake City Legal Opinion: Olustee Park – Home of Confederate Monument – Owned By Columbia County

Commissioner Williams gave the microphone to County Attorney Foreman, who gave his take on the preceding and up-coming events.

County Attorney Foreman said, “There no records showing that the Park was ever transferred from the County to the City.”

He continued, “It is ours on paper. So, unless there is a strenuous objection to it, my intention was to put the quitclaim deed issue back on the next agenda. Because it is our understanding and it's David's understanding -- I should say that the City is still preparing to receive the park if we’re still prepared to give it.”

Mr. Foreman took the Liberty of not asking County Manager David Kraus to speak for himself.

After the meeting, City Manager Joe Helfenberger said all City Councilmen are not in favor of accepting the Park back.

County Chairman Rocky Ford
County Chairman Rocky Ford          (file)

Commissioner Toby Witt asked to a gaggle of chuckles how much of the City the County really owned.

Attorney Foreman explained that all the pieces of property that had been deeded to the City in the area had been accounted for except "the patch that is the park," and there was no "evidence that the County ever gave that to anybody."

Chairman Ford asked, “Is there any kind of law that says if you maintain this property and took care of the property for so many years [you own the property], sort of like a road?”

Attorney Foreman answered, “Nope… It’s the issue we talked about way back. Now there is evidence that you own it. Now, what do you want to do? ... I say the solution is, if you guys are inclined to do it, just issue a quitclaim deed.”

Chairman Ford asked, “The City’s willin’ to accept this quitclaim deed?”

County Attorney Foreman: “Strike While the Iron’s Hot”

Again, County Attorney Foreman spoke for the County Manager, “It’s David's understanding, I believe from his conversations with [City] administration -- I think we should strike while the iron's hot if we're gonna' respond to this.”

Commissioner Williams weighed in, “My suggestion would be if they don't want it, we take a dozer in there and clean it out and make parkin’.”

Commissioner Murphy, without waiting to be recognized, “Amen – Second… They owe us a lot of back rent (more laughs). They built that fountain without a County permit, too.”

“Takin’ Everything Down, But the Monument”

Attorney Foreman continued, “Specifically with respect to the monument, you have what's called a federal benchmark in that monument. It's for surveying purposes. We are at least gonna’ have to deal with the Department of the Interior before we can tear down the whole park, so you may end up takin’ everything down, but the monument.”

County Commissioner Toby 'Witt
Commissioner Toby Witt                (fille)

Commissioner Witt weighed in, “We have went with the assumption that it's their park, so if they want a quitclaim deed, fine. If they really wanna put the issue on us and did not take the Park, I'm good with that, too. Just let us know what they want.”

Attorney Foreman said, “I think that’s how you ask the question – is you go ahead and issue the quitclaim deed – say, ‘here you go’ – then they’d have to disclaim it. They have to affirmatively do something. Otherwise, it can just sit out there and percolate forever and ever and ever, and I think that we've all learned from the last go with this, which I think was last summer, it doesn't go anywhere.”

Chairman Ford said, “I am definitely not running from this issue. They have money tied up in this here Park; they've maintained it for several years; if they want a quitclaim deed, I'm willin' to give it to em'.”

Unidentified commissioner, “Some new parking would be nice.”

The Foreman Solution

County Commissioner Robby Hollingsworth
Commissioner Robby Hollingsworth   (file)

Attorney Foreman said, “So what I'm suggestin’, and this is the way it would work, you go ahead and authorize the quitclaim deed, and then we'd present that to the City – ‘Hey -- here's your Park’ -- and then make them say ‘no.’ I just think that's how you move the ball.”

Commissioner Hollingsworth spoke up, “That’s the way to do it.”

Chairman Ford said, “I guess, bring the quitclaim deed back at the next meeting.”

Attorney Foreman: “I'll do that.”

Commissioner Witt made a final comment, “It is telling that they didn't ask for ownership when they built the fountain; they didn’t ask for ownership when they did anything in that park until some controversial issue comes up and then, ‘Oh no, we might not own it.’”

Olustee Park is used by children, who play in the fountain, families, City and County workers, and groups.

County Attorney Foreman, who all County residents elect, including City residents, closed out the conversation talking about parking, "The story I've always heard is Ray Walker [a former tax collector] wanted more parking and Joe Cone [a former city manager] told him, ‘Hell no.’”

“If we knew then what we know now, we could have as much parking as we wanted to,” he said.

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.