Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake Shore Hosp Authority

Lake Shore Hosp Auth: Urban renewal and building doctor's offices on spec – its new job?

The Generator Shop. The insert shows the combined cost of the lots to be $710,000.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – The May 13th Lake Shore Hospital Authority (the Authority) meeting continued to bring up many issues that had been brewing since the uncontrolled and ill fated real-estate buying spree orchestrated and begun in 2006 by then Authority Board member Jackson P. "Jack" Berry.

Today, real-estate values have plummeted. Jack Berry went from Authority Board Chairman, no pay, to General Manager of the Authority, a job which pays almost $100,000 a year. Stuck with a portfolio of property the Authority can't give away, Manager Berry is now claiming his plan-less buying spree was urban renewal, and he is looking to convince the Authority Board to build doctor's offices on spec with county resident's tax dollars.

stories are here.

In Part I, $4,000,000 spent in real-estate spending spree - still no plan,  the Observer explored the Authority's purchase and plan for the Ludy Shipp real-estate. Folks in the area who knew the property just shake their heads when they discover the Authority paid $200,000 for it.

In Part II, Urban renewal and building doctor's offices on spec – it's new job?,  the Observer is looking at the Generator Shop, which sits at the corner of Marion and NE Franklin in the heart of the business district in downtown Lake City. This building cost the taxpayer's of Columbia County $230,000 in 2006.

In January 2005, Jack Berry, a Jeb Bush appointee, sat on the Hospital Authority as a board member for the first time. One month later, in February 2005, a consortium of locals bought the property for $64,000.

Apparently, Board member Berry had been inquiring into properties around Shands Hospital at Lake Shore, the hospital owned by the Authority and the reason for the Authority's existence. In February of 2006, according the Authority minutes, Mr. Berry reported his inquires to the Board. The Board authorized him and Board Attorney, Marlin Feagle, "to get options and offer binders."

In March 2006, at the very next meeting, "Jack Berry distributed a map" showing the property on which there was an agreement and Authority Attorney Feagle "distributed copies of the proposed Contract for Sale and Purchase to the Board members." (Authority minutes)

The $230,000 piece is the roof of the Generator Shop.

The Jack Berry's Lake Shore Hospital Authority land buying spree was ramping up. Properties were being purchased at breakneck speed. In October, the Generator Shop that was bought for $64,000 twenty months earlier was sold to the Authority for $230,000; and by June 2008, the two other parcels in the block had been bought for $480,000, making the total deal of the present footprint worth $710,000 of ready to implode Columbia County tax payer financed dollars.

The "two other parcels" bought for $480,000 have been given a combined certified 2012 just value by the County Property Appraiser of $35,000.

Back to the May 13th meeting: more plans in the office

Board Chair, Dr. Waseem Khan, inquired about the Generator Shop, the $230,000 parcel for which plans were recently drawn. Manager Berry had claimed he had a client for the property and an appointment, but the client didn't show up for the meeting and he couldn't get in touch with him.

Of course, those plans were in the office as he told the Board, "We have the plans complete on it. I have them in the office. We've got a cost figure. It costs somewhere between $475,000 and $500,000 to build it, if you so wish. -- That's parking lot -- landscaping -- the whole 9 yards. (silence) I do not have a contract with any doctor ta take it."

No one asked Manager Berry to get the plans from his office, which was right down the hall.

Board member Bruce Naylor wanted to know if the project called for tearing down the present building and starting over.

Manager Berry told him, "Well, it's tearin' everything down except the slab. Keepin' the slab, cause, when they built that buildin' they didn't put any pilasters in the wall and the walls aren't poured. You'd be cheaper to go ahead and tear em' down and rebuild, than you would to put pilasters in em..."

Chairman Khan inquired, "So the last thing I heard is there was some interest. They're not interested now?

Manager Berry, "Well, he's still interested, but he missed the meetin'. I had a meetin' set up with Marlin and I and him. He missed the meetin'. I haven't been able to get in touch with him since.

Chairman Khan, "I think until we have someone who is interested in the space I don't know that we move anywhere on it."

After some conversation about the modular in Part I, Chairman Khan spoke about putting this project on the back burner until they find someone who has an interest.

Manager Berry told the Board:

Well, if you wait until somebody gets interested in it -- you not -- I haven't seen a rat get in a rat trap yet that's waitin’ for em to build one for em to get in. It just ain't gonna happen.

Board member Bruce Naylor asked, "Are we in the business to spec commercial real estate? That's kinda what you're talking about?"

Chairman Berry responded, "That's exactly what it is. It's a doctor's office that you got settin' there waitin' on a doctor."

Board member Vann, "That's not our job. That's not our mission."

Manager Berry, "And I mean that if the Board don't wanna to do that, then I mean, ya know -- that’s -- that's it.

"Why don't we sell all the land?"

Downtown Lake City during a recent walking tour.

Board member Lori Chancy added, "Then why don't we sell all the land?"

Manager Berry responded, "You find somebody to buy, I think we'll entertain that, probably."

Board member Chancy said she thought the Authority's vision statement was to "buy property and develop it so that it would complement the hospital."

It doesn't say that anywhere.

Manager Berry claimed, "Well let me tell ya. I was on the Board at the time the property was purchased. The primary driving force behind buyin' the property was to get it cleaned up where you didn't have to drive through the ghetto to get to the hospital. That's the only way you could get it done was to buy the property and clean it up."

The record does not support Mr. Berry's statement.

Chairman Khan, a doctor, told the Board, "There is property sitting all over Lake City that is sitting unused. To develop a $500,000 office space in anticipation of a doctor moving in. I think it would be a mistake."

Mr. Naylor wanted to know how Hospital Manager Berry was going to market the portfolio (of property).

Manager Berry thought they should begin a physical plan, after the Authority Board is finished with its strategic plan, a plan which he let expire.

Health Management Associates: The multibillion dollar for profit corporation that leases the Hospital

Health Management Associates (HMA)
HMA is a publically traded company listed on the New York stock exchange. In the last year (May 23d) its stock value has gone from $6.38 a share to $10.98. Its market capitalization is $2,824,000,000.

Mr. Vann asked, "Jack, if you remember the meetin' we had with administration, we were basically told, Rhonda, by whoever the boss was, when we expressed, "Would you be interested in building doctors' offices around his hospital?" We were told no. Is that not correct?"

Neither Manager Berry, nor the present CEO of the HMA facility, Rhonda Sherrod, responded.

Mr. Vann continued, "That’s it. HMA isn't interested in it and if the people who rent it and do it aren't interested in doing it, then I don't really see where our mission is to offer it... The major tenant doesn't see it as that big an asset to operating the hospital, because they all want to locate where -- out West of town.

Columbia County Florida
Columbia County has been designated a Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern. This means that is suffers from high unemployment and underemployment; low per capita income; lower wages than the state average; higher percentages of families living below the poverty level and receiving public assistance; has underperforming public schools; and a large ratio of eligible families for free and reduced lunch programs.

Mr. Naylor wanted to know what HMA would say today.

CEO Sherrod responded, "Having physician offices, medical staff offices located on the hospital campus, certainly is beneficial. Would HMA invest in that? Right now we're investing in some hospital improvements... Right now we are focusing on improving the main hospital structure. Investing in capital equipment; board specialists and sub specialists to care for our patients... Right now we can't pursue, you know, the development of offices on the campus."

Chairman Khan, "I think we'll move on to the next subject."

Comments  (to add a comment go here) 

On May 25, 2013, a Canadian reader wrote:

It is no wonder that Americans are cynical about their government which now appears to serve only corporation interests!


On May 25, 2013, a business executive (name withheld) from Tampa wrote:

The most frightening thing about this Lakeshore Hospital issue is this idiot participating in the healthcare process! What the hell is wrong with Shands?


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