Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake Shore Hospital Authority

Lake Shore Hosp Auth: After 3 Years & 3 Mil Dollars, Illegally Constituted Authority Board Agrees to Deed Hospital to Meridian

Lory Chancy's heart was always in the right place – she believed in the value of a municipal hospital

Lory Chancy and Jane Creel with headline: Lake Shore Hospital Authority Member Lorry Chancy, with help from her friend, voted to give Merician the hospital.
Photos: Columbia County Observer | Long time Board member Lory Chancy (left), listens to her friend and former Board member, Janet Creel.

More LSHA stories are here.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last night at Lake Shore Hospital Authority headquarters, after three years of foot-dragging and three million dollars, the governor's Authority Board finally agreed to deed the vacated Shands at Lake Shore Hospital to Meridian – the only folks that were willing to take the hospital and save it from the wrecking ball.

In the end, turning the tide was twofold: board member Stephen Douglas balked at approving the budget, and former board member Janet Creel came to the Authority to convince her old friend, long-time Board member Lory Chancy, to give up on her idea to lease the building and deed it to Meridian.

Authority Manager Dale Williams Recommended Canceling Property Insurance on the  Hospital. The Board Approved It: What Were They Thinking?

Two notable events occurred during the last budget hearing and Authority meeting (September 11).

Board member Don Kennedy decided he would not just deed the hospital to Meridian. Meridian CEO Don Savoie was told to go to his Board and ask them if they would accept a long-term lease or purchase agreement, something Meridian has said it was not willing to do for the past year.

During the September 11 Authority meeting, Board member Kennedy said, “I will tell you this – if Mr. Savoie goes back and gets the same answer “no” that they are not interested in a long-term lease agreement – a long-term purchase agreement – let's do it for 50 years… but if they say no, then you're going to hear before Mr. Beil gets a chance to make a motion that we request Mr. Williams to get bids to demolish the building. That’s where I am.”

Board member Don Kennedy
LSHA Board member Don Kennedy last night. He was ready to cash in the chips before Mr. Douglas made his stand.

A month short of three years since the CHS abandonment of the hospital, an event that the Authority knew was coming, almost 3 million dollars were spent keeping the building fit to be occupied.

The Columbia County property appraiser values the hospital at an adjusted rate of $12 million. To start from scratch, it is estimated that building Shands at Lake Shore Hospital from the ground up would cost $65 million.

As the September 11 meeting concluded, Authority Manager Williams addressed the Board, "Given that that is a very substantial building, and as we have not had a history of any property type claims on that building, I really think that is your best option." [Not having property insurance on the hospital].

"Staff is recommending that you amend your insurance coverages by eliminating property coverage on the Lake Shore Hospital building."

The motion passed unanimously.

As of October 1, with the Authority sitting with $20 million in the bank, Manager Williams convinced the Board to eliminate the property insurance on the taxpayer-owned building.

Last Night: Touch & Go

The first item on last night's Authority agenda was the final budget hearing. While the millage rate, which is basically nothing, passed without incident, the approval of the budget became problematic.

Board member Stephen Douglas
Stephen Douglas ponders the budget. Mr. Douglas had the Authority a heartbeat away from receivership.

Board member Douglas had issues and was not going to vote to approve the budget.

Board member Kennedy said the Board needed to be more aware of taxpayer money.

Board member Douglas had issues and said again he couldn't support the budget.

Manager Williams said the budget could be amended. Mr. Douglas pondered. He said, "I do not want to do this anymore.”

Chairman Beil said he was tired of "kicking the can down the road."

After 35 minutes, your reporter, a Columbia County resident and property owner, reminded the Board that it could change the budget. Chairman Beil threatened to throw your reporter out.

Finally, the budget was amended and passed.

Now, What To Do About Meridian?
Board Member Chancy’s Old Friend Saved the Day

The next item on the agenda was whether or not to demolish the Authority Hospital.

Former board member Janet Creel attended her first board meeting in years. Ms. Creel addressed her old friend and former Board mate, Lory Chancy. Ms. Chancy, throughout her years on the Board, was a big supporter of municipal hospitals, and in spite of the failure of the Authority, Ms. Chancy did not want the Authority to give away the hospital – she was holding fast and made it no secret.

Ms. Creel said, "As a taxpayer and an ex-member of this Board, it's still a stalemate. Nothing is being accomplished here. Everything is going backwards. Drug use and mental health are two huge issues. Not just here, everywhere."

“Why in the world did you not give this hospital to Meridian or someone that could benefit the public…? Why hasn't this building been given to the people that could aid the taxpayers in this County?”

"Please, don't keep it any longer. Get rid of this building. Do something that benefits the people who paid for it. That's not uncommon."

A short while later, Meridian's CEO Don Savoie addressed the Board: "You asked two weeks ago to reach out to my board chair and schedule a meeting… She is unwilling to schedule a meeting at this point, and I would like to explain to you Meridian's position.”

Meridian CEO Don Savoie
Meridian's CEO Don Savoie would only agree to Meridian getting a deed for the hospital from the Authority.

Mr. Savoie continued: “We have worked for eight months since we had the meeting in February on the purchase and sale for the building at great expense to both organizations. A $10 million commitment that we provided… We have worked in good faith with many of your staff, again at great expense, on a purchase and sale agreement. We respectfully ask that this Board of Trustees honors that process and is willing to take a vote on what I think is a very good proposal… We stand true with what we would like to do to the hospital building. We think we can serve the community… We have a really important opportunity here right now… we hope you will consider our proposal.”

Chairman Beil made a motion to give Meridian the hospital building.

Ms. Chancy had not once come off her lease or nothing position. She said she is "not acting in bad faith," as her position has been the same since the beginning.

Former Board member Creel, “I think the question would go to Lory. If you don't do this tonight, what do you propose that this Board do – just keep going?

Ms. Chancy responded, “First of all, we can't do it tonight because the attorneys have to do their thing… I believe in going forward with some format. The only thing that I maintain is that a lease should be done rather than a sale or a giveaway. My proposal at the last meeting was a dollar a year with a long-term lease.”

Ms. Creel followed up, pointing out that the former leaseholders passed down or reassigned the lease. Ms. Creel said, “The warranty deed will do away with the lease. When we sign that warranty deed, we walk… Somebody's got to make the decision. I don't know where a lease will be any different because we've already been there. It could be next year and under lease that can be right back here.”

The Board voted on whether or not to give (deed) the hospital to Meridian.

Everyone knew Ms. Chancy was the deciding vote.

One hour and 30 minutes into the meeting, Ms. Chancy voted to give the hospital to Meridian.


Throughout her tenure on the Board, Ms. Chancy's heart was always in the right place. Ultimately, the value of the Lake Shore Hospital Authority had come to an end.

Ms. Chancy left the building teary-eyed, but with the help of some gentle persuasion from her friend Janet Creel, she did the right thing.

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