Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City/Columbia County News

Blanche $15 mil Renovation: CM Johnson Playing it Close to the Vest, "You'll know when I know"

LAKE CITY, FL – The Lake City, City Council breezed through Monday evening's meeting agenda in a speedy 16 minutes. Resident Ralph Kitchens came to the Council for an update on the $15,000,000 Blanche Hotel renovation, of which there has been nothing new since the last Blanche meeting of the handpicked "Grassroots Blanche Stakeholder Committee" on December 16, 2014.

During that December 16 meeting, City Manager Johnson had words for those who opposed the Blanche Restoration Project. He said, "We could invite Jesus Christ to come and occupy the Blanche and restore it miraculously through his power and we would have people that would oppose that, probably. We've got our naysayers -- cave people - C-A-V-E - Citizens Against Virtually Everything."

To date, neither City Manager Johnson, nor anybody else, has been able to explain the New Market Tax Credit Program, which is being sold as the only way to finance the project.

The next meeting scheduled for the so called Grass Roots Group was supposed to be scheduled for sometime in January. During the December 16 meeting City Manager Johnson advised:

The developers – you may be asking why they are not here today. I told them not to come today. It's premature for me to want them to come in, because when they come I want them to be prepared. When they come in January they are going to bring the artist's rendition; the architect's rendition; they're going to bring their ideas and be able to answer the questions.

If the developers came to Lake City in January, nobody was talking.

Looking for an update

Last night Ralph Kitchens was invited to the microphone to address the Council.

Mr. Kitchens asked, "The Blanche Hotel?"

Mayor Witt followed up, "So you’re asking us what the status is? I think Mr. Johnson would be the best right at this time to...

City Manager Johnson cut off the Mayor.

Mr. Johnson continued, "It’s over there across the street. [The] answer to you Ralph is when the time comes and I indicated before the meeting that we had as stakeholders. (Unintelligible) do this and forward information to the City Council. I’ll publish it to the citizens of this town and everybody in the -- You’ll know when I know. That’s it."

No one on the City Council volunteered anything else.

Article written from recording and interviews

Comments (to add a comment go here)

On Feb. 3, 2015, PC wrote:

I was appalled by the way the City Manager treated the citizen who asked for an update on the Blanche Hotel. His snide, condescending manner was both nauseating and infuriating. Clearly, this is a man with issues. He would do well to remember that he may "manage" the city, but he doesn't own it. His paycheck is ultimately provided by the citizens he serves. That's right, serves, Mr. Johnson. You are a public servant. You give Lake City a bad name with your nasty attitude.

All the taxpayers help fund the projects the few decide to undertake. They are ALL deserving of your respect. Maybe you should consider some sensitivity training as part of your employee training.


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