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Columbia County Observer

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LSHA

LSHA: Sitting on a Sea of Over $16,000,000 & a Lease That Nobody Wants - What's Next?


Photo by Kristina Flour/Unsplash | Observer graphic

More LSHA stories are here.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Tonight is the second virtual meeting of the Lake Shore Hospital Authority, a vestigial independent taxing authority which leases a mostly empty hospital to a NYSE listed Corporation which has lost the knack of making money, at least in Lake City.

Tonight, on the agenda and up for discussion is an item called, "FY 2020-2021 Budget (Discussion Only)" and that's it: no budgets or schedule of expenditures over the last five years – no nothing. It is the way the Governor's representatives, that's who appoints the trustees, does its business.

Since 2010, the Lake Shore Hospital Authority has been a hand-picked depository for folks who aspire for future political office or just plain good ole' boys and girls, except for one, former bank president Bruce Naylor, who may have been the only one who was not afraid of the former Authority Manager, repo man and Republican operative, Jackson P. "Jack" Berry.

While Mr. Berry's faults are legendary, not many folks talk about the way he managed to direct the board to keep the cash stash of the Authority moving upward.

Millions and Millions

In December 2015, the Authority was sitting on a cash hoard $8,416,000. It had 187 active members, i.e., those that received Authority benefits.

This was way down from a few years before when the Authority had about 1,000 clients and had fallen from the year before in October 2014 when it had 323 active clients.

By March of 2017, the Authority was sitting on a cash stash of $10,881,000 and had 142 clients.

In April 2019, the Authority had $14,113,000 and had increased its client base by 26 per year over two years and was still able to stash away over $3 mil.

This gets us to this year. In May 2020, the Authority had $16,124,000 in the bank and 132 clients, which may be an all time low.

Tonight

Tonight, you want to keep your eye on two people, Chairmen Brandon Beil, a genuinely nice man, who is in a race against former Authority Board member Tim Murphy for the County Commission District 5 seat.

Also, Jay Swisher, the man with a million dollar smile who is running for the job as Clerk of the Court. While Mr. Swisher has a pedigree as long as ten arms and it looks like he will be running unopposed, he will be looking to leave a nice taste in the mouths of Columbia County's taxpayers.

With Shands at Lake Shore being on borrowed time and looking to get out of its lease any day and no replacements on the horizon, you can be sure that both Mr. Swisher and Mr. Beil will be in favor of not coming forth with any taxes this year.

This is something both of them could have done for the past few years.

Epilogue

Not on the agenda for this evening is the future of the Authority and the hospital. Maybe someone will bring it up.

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