Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news from Florida for working families since 2007


Lake City Downtown Revival to Continue: LSHA Declares 12 Parcels Surplus - Donate to City

Dr. Mark Thompson, Lake City, Florida

More LSHA stories are here.

COLUMBIA COUNTY / LAKE CITY, FL – Last night at the Lake Shore Hospital Authority, the Governor appointed Board declared 12 parcels, bought in crazed buying spree in 2006, surplus to the Authority's needs and gifted the property to the City of Lake City.


Late in 2004, FL governor Jeb Bush appointed the then Columbia County Republican leader, Jackson P. "Jack" Berry, to the board of the Lake Shore Hospital Authority, a special taxing district set up by the FL legislature to provide medical care for the indigent of Columbia County.

At that time the Lake Shore Hospital was leased to Shands of Gainesville fame and was called Shands at Lake Shore.

In January 2005, new Lake Shore Hospital Authority (LSHA) board member Jack Berry attended his first LSHA board meeting.

In September 2005, Jack Berry mentioned purchasing land "adjacent" to the hospital.

In December 2005, Board member Dr. Mohammad Faisal questioned if the Authority had a strategic plan.

It didn't.

Dale Williams and Jay Swisher
Authority Manager Dale Williams and Board member Jay Swisher listen to the presentation by the City Manager.

In February 2006, the LSHA Board authorized Jack Berry to get appraisals on properties "surrounding the hospital area."

By April of 2006 the Board was questioning Mr. Berry's use of appraisers. Properties were being acquired. The Board decided a month before that a strategic plan would be a future topic.

In June 2006, the Board purchased property. There still was no plan.

By August 2006, the Board was hot and heavy into the land purchasing business.

In September 2006, more parcels were purchased. There still was no plan.

In October 2006, the Board agreed it would be a good idea to hire a "facilitator-consultant" to develop a strategic plan.

In November 2006, the Board agreed to buy a boat load of property. The strategic plan "facilitator-consultant" was introduced and it was announced that goals would be established.

In December 2006 the property purchasing spree was just about over. However, three more parcels were introduced and a strategic plan survey was sent out by the facilitator.

The Observer fielded many complaints about the Berry real-estate deals and referred those folks to the Justice Department. The Authority was put under investigation. It is not clear what happened to that investigation.

Monday Night

Former Board Member Janet Creel: real-estate broker

Janet Creel
Former Board member Janet Creel.

Janet Creel was appointed to the LSHA Board by Governor Rick Scott. Her first board meeting was March 1, 2014, approximately 7 years after the dizzying LSHA property buying spree.

On Monday night she told the Board, "I'm only here as a taxpayer of Columbia County. I'm not here to tell you what a bad job you're doing, or anything... Why does the City even want to be down here? The City has got plenty of property... I'm just asking you as a citizen, before you give away what we've already bought, ask why the City would be a better steward of it, when it got it, than it is of what it has now... I think you need to retain what you got here for the future.

Ms. Creel left the meeting.

Hospital Authority Manager Dale Williams explained what was in front of the Board for consideration.

"What is before the trustees tonight is an interlocal agreement between the Authority and the City of Lake City... The City has requested a gift of 12 vacant parcels owned by Lake Shore for public use, including the purpose of building a new city hall, potential county administrative facilities,  public parking for future city and county administrative buildings, and public parking in general."

".... It also says that Lake Shore is satisfied that the requested property is not required for Lake Shore purposes."

Mr. Williams continued, "You have a public responsibility to make a finding, before you gift any property, that it is surplus."

City Manager Joe Helfenberger
City Manger Joe Helfenberger explains the City's plans.

City Manager Joe Helfenberger spoke for the City, "The Council is very supportive of this resolution and they are all here as you can see. We believe this will be a catalyst to help the downtown revitalize and grow. It will make a difference not only for the City and potentially for the County. If we can get some of the areas turned into parking that will make a huge difference for the downtown.

Mr. Helfenberger explained that parcels 1-5 are planned for a new City Hall and a possible County building with a meeting room in the middle.

Map of downtown Lake City
Map of properties. Click map to enlarge.

Board Member Lory Chancy: Makes her stand

Lory Chancy
Lory Chancy, file photo.

In 2009, Board member Lory Chancy was a member of the Republican Executive Committee and is a licensed radiology technician. She was appointed to the Authority Board in 2009 by Governor Charlie Crist. At the time of her appointment the property feeding frenzy was just about over.

Ms. Chancy told the Board, "I'm adamantly opposed to this... It was paid for with the vision of putting doctor's offices there or other medical facilities."

Ms. Chancy continued on with her other thoughts which were generally misrepresentations and distortions of the facts.

She told the Board, "The original vision of the Hospital Authority, long before even I was here, was to buy the surrounding properties so that the medical campus could be expanded with medical offices and other facilities to do with medical treatment."

This was not true.

Board Member Dr. Mark Thompson:  " Never once, was any of this area ever mentioned for medical growth."

Dr. Mark Thompson was appointed by Governor Scott for a term beginning January 26, 2018. He is a radiation oncologist.

Dr. Thompson told the Board: "I've been in the community... I am on the staff of both hospitals. Been on the board of both hospitals. Been involved in strategic planning of both hospitals. Chief of the medical staff of the Lake City Medical Center and in all of our planning for the future, never once, was any of this area ever mentioned for medical growth. There's nobody currently, or in the last 14-15 years, who has any plans to build medical facilities on these properties."

"You look at our community and you look out at [U.S.] 90W, that's where there is a lot of medical growth in our community. There are even plans for further medical growth in that area... There's never been any mention about using these properties."

"... The Citizens paid for this land and if we're returning this property to the Citizens for a municipal use... the fact that it is given back to the citizens for public use I think is a very wise use of this property."

Board members Jay Swisher and Stephen Douglas agreed with Dr. Thompson.

The Board voted: 3-1. Ms. Chancy held her ground.

Jake Hill addressed the Authority Board, "On behalf of myself and the City Council we appreciate you all working with us on this project."

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