Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City News

City Council on tap to approve Columbia County Commissioner DePratter $28,000 sole source bid

LAKE CITY, FL –  Nineteen months after spending $100,000 plus for a new downtown Lake City Redevelopment Master Plan, Lake City's downtown continues to languish. Barely any businesses were willing to put up the 50% match for façade improvements, so the city came up with a plan to pay 75%, which is also not a stunning success. On the City's Community Redevelopment Agency Meeting agenda for Monday evening is a request for a Commercial Improvement Grant for a $28,000 chain link fence with 2 gates. The only bid was that of Columbia County Commissioner Rusty DePratter, who is the owner of North Florida Fence Company.

On Monday evening at 6:45 pm, the City Council, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) is being asked by City Manager Wendell Johnson to consider what he is calling a "Commercial Improvement Grant" for a fence for the Recycling Center located at 597 N Marion Avenue.

There is nothing in the City's Façade Improvement Grant Program recognizing a Commercial Improvement Grant, nor could it be found on the City's web site or in the City Code.

Lake City Has No Standards

Lake City has no Architectural Review Board or similar agency which sees that accepted and established standards are met. The City has no standards, other than those imposed by state statute.

An Architectural Review Board is a key element in City Planning, something in which City Manager Johnson claims to be an expert.

An Architectural Review Board is usually made up of licensed architects, designers, and qualified individuals who review building designs, landscaping and signage.

According to City Manager Johnson's report to the CRA, the CRA Advisory Committee "would like to establish a more aesthetic appearance of the recycling property."

The only document being presented to the CRA (it is really the City Council) is a sole source bid from County Commissioner Rusty DePratter, the owner of North Florida Fence Company. It is a one page bid faxed to the City on May 14, 2013, one hour before the CRA Advisory Committee met and approved the amount, $28,000, minus the $4,000 for two gates, which made the actual approved amount $24,000.

Lake City does not have an inclusive procurement policy.

The Observer has not been able to locate any rules and procedures for what the City Manager is calling a "Commercial Improvement Grant."

City Manager Johnson providing no documentation

In communities that take urban renewal seriously and consider it an investment in the future, the disbursement of this amount of money for this type of grant would require the following be provided for approval:

1. Summary of the scope of work to be performed including descriptions or samples of proposed colors and/or materials.

2. Detailed plans and specifications to implement the scope of work, to include electronic versions.

3. An outline of the total estimated renovation timeline including project start and end dates.

4. Provide existing site information (site plan/survey) with photographs showing existing structure and grounds.

5. Three (3) all inclusive bids supporting project cost estimates.

6. Proof of property ownership and authorization.


Downtown Lake City continues to be an eyesore well after the Lake City Community Redevelopment Master Plan was approved. Business owners are voting every day with their wallets on the non investment of the improvement of the downtown.

At 8 am on July 6, 2009, Wendell Johnson was hired as the City's, City Manager. Next month City Manager Johnson will have been in charge of the redevelopment of Lake City's downtown for four years.

The result speaks for itself.

Overcoming its legendary good ole boy roots is a task that continues to elude Columbia County.

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