Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake Shore Hosp Authority

Lake Shore Hosp Auth Replays May 2013: Local OB/GYN Wants Prefab Office Downtown
Over a year later, Berry has no plan

Berry balks at the suggestion he offered the land for free.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last night, the Lake Shore Hospital Authority, one of Florida's most closed public agencies, did a virtual rerun of an issue presented in May of 2013. At that time, Lake City OB/GYN, Dr. Emad Atta, wanted to put a 1,300 sq. ft. prefab doctor's office on a piece of downtown property bought during the wild Jack Berry orchestrated 2006 Authority downtown property buying spree.

Last night, Dr. Atta came back with his proposal. Manager Berry, who had a year to determine both the cost of the property and its current value, came up empty-handed. If he did know, he wasn't talking.

Manager Berry told the Board, "In your packet you’ll find the diagrams they’ve sent out. What he’s proposing to do – he would like to put a medical office across the street from here. It’s the block west of the generator shop.  He would like to put a modular office in there."

Manager Berry continued, "What he would like the Board to do is give em’ the property."

Manager Berry and the Board members all had the drawings and what appeared to be a color drawing. Unlike in times past, where extra copies were brought to the meeting so the public and press could see what the Board was talking about, Berry has now dug in, with the support of the Board, and makes sure there is only information available for the Board members.

Berry explained what he thought were the Board's four options: "first, they can sell em’ the property; second is they can lease the property; the third one is – I don’t remember; or not do anything."

At the conclusion of Manager Berry's explanation, Dr. Atta joined the meeting.

New Board member, Janet Creel, wasted no time and asked Dr. Atta, “Would you prefer to buy the property?”

Berry: Looking to give away the property?

Dr. Atta answered, “Because I didn’t know the price for it -- because when he offered this -- he’ll give it to me as a loan, provided that I would make it as a medical office and within ten years the land would be mine. That’s what I understood from Jack. Is there any proposal like this?

Manager Berry cut him off, "That was just an offer we talked about. It would be up to the Board."

Board member Creel (right) wanted to recover the taxpayer's money. Bd. member Vann was tight lipped regarding the cost of the property and the 2013 events.

LSHA Attorney Marlin Feagle weighed in, “You’ve got to be very careful about giving away public property to private entities.”

After some discussion, Ms. Creel said, “We spent the money, so we need to recover it some way... As people that represent the community we need some of the money back, don’t we?”

Mr. Feagle said, “It needs to be a fair market value. In the county you have to advertise and take bids.”

Ms. Creel mentioned giving Dr. Atta a ground lease. Board member Chancy said she thought the ground lease was “the best way to go.”

A visit with the Columbia Co. Prop. Appraiser showed what the Authority paid. From the conversation, it appeared that the prefab office will be somewhere on the parcels with the red line in them.

Only two Board members, Creel and Chancy, mentioned a ground lease. Board members Douglas, Adams, and Vann were silent.

Mr. Berry entered the conversation, “I think I’m hearin’ where this is goin’. Maybe I’m wrong. The Board seems to be more interested in retaining ownership, but leasing the land on the ground lease.”

Manager Berry said he and Dr. Atta could get together and try and come up with something.

Ms. Creel wanted to sell it. “Just sell it and recapture your money.”

Board member Adams weighed in, “I don’t think you're going to recapture the amount of money that was spent on it.”

The cost of the three parcel deal, all or part of which is where Dr. Atta proposes to place his prefab 1,300 sq. ft. office cost Columbia County tax payers $320,000 plus legal fees, appraisals, and any demolitions. If Manager Berry or Board member Adams knew this, they weren't talking.

Dr. Atta, “So let’s go with the buying issue. See how much the fair market value is. I might buy it. If it’s reasonable for me I will buy it.”

Manager Berry told the Board, “I think by the next meeting I can have it put together, if that’s the way you want to go.”


On May 22, 2013, then Board member and former bank president, Bruce Naylor, opined about this project, "1300 sq. ft. doesn't look like anything. We don't have a plan. If this was part of the plan that would be one thing... I think now we have to have a plan."

Over a year later there is still no plan.


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