Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City

Johnson's Legacy Inflating: Blanche Price Tag Now $17,000,000 from $13,675,000

LAKE CITY, FL – City Manager Wendell Johnson was a kingpin in the $30,000,000 North Florida Broadband Authority debacle, which he abandoned at the 12th hour. Now he is the prime negotiator in the Blanche Hotel downtown renovation. Seven months ago, in September 2014, the IDP – Wendell Johnson Blanche renovation was slated to cost $13,675,000. The price tag is now $17,000,000.

City Manager Johnson has proven, like Governor Scott and Columbia County's own LSHA Manager, Jackson P. "Jack" Berry, not to be a great friend of either Florida's Sunshine or Public Record Laws.

This morning, the Observer obtained a copy of the latest version of the IDP – Johnson Letter of Agreement from Columbia County's Asst. County Manager, Ben Scott. The City Manager was asked for a copy shortly after. It has not arrived.

The Latest Letter of Intent: the numbers

The Observer reprocessed the Letter of Intent so those with slow or dial up connections can access the document.

The changes are in the green boxes in the pdf.

How ever the daily print paper, the Lake City Reporter, got the letter – it didn’t say – editor/writer Robert Bridges got the numbers wrong in the Sunday edition. The original estimate for the Blanche was not $14 million, but $13,675,000. Developer's equity went from $200,000, not the $500,000, reported by the Reporter, to $1.7 million.

In a couple of hours City Manager Johnson and the folks from IDP will take another bite at the Blanche apple.

Columbia County's Economic Development Director, Glenn Hunter, a supporter of the project, who recently met with all the the members of the County 5, will not be there.

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The CRA Master Plan is available here. (25Mb)

Links to more Blanche stories:

• March 11, 2015  Blanche Hotel: 6 Months & Counting – $14,000,000 Letter of Intent May Be Next Month

• Feb. 24, 2015  Blanche Hotel Train of Advisors Pulled into City Hall Last Night: Lots of Pictures - Not Much New

• Feb. 21, 2015  Blanche Saga Continues: $14,000,000 financing remains unexplained

• Feb. 3, 2015  Blanche $15 mil Renovation: CM Johnson Playing it Close to the Vest, "You'll know when I know"

• December 18, 2014 (Part II)  The Blanche: Johnson & Decker want inclusion "Anybody that wants a seat will have one"

• December 17, 2014 (Part I)  Lake City's Blanche Hotel: $15,000,000 Renovation Discussion Off & Running

• December 4, 2014  Renovation of Blanche Hotel on the Launching Pad:  Will everyone have a chance to participate?

• November 7, 2014  Lake City's Last Chance Hotel, the Blanche – Plans On the Way to the Columbia County 5

• November 4, 2014  City Manager Johnson: Working on a Plan to Raise the Blanche Hotel From the Dead

• March 4, 2010 The Blanche Hotel - The seventh inning stretch

 • Mar 1, 2010 The Blanche Group Bailout
Who are they? Where are they?

 • Mar 1, 2010  A Blanche Investor Interview

 • Feb 27, 2010  Structural Evaluation of the Blanche Hotel Now in the hands of the City Council

 • Oct 21, 2009 Conversation with Steve Smith -Blanche Investment Trust

 • Oct 21, 2009 City steps up • Councilman Hill wants slow down

 • Oct 21, 2009 The visit • The fire inspection

 • Oct 21, 2009 Go to Photo Gallery

 • Oct 9, 2009 City Steps Up To The Plate
Offers to buy Landmark Blanche Hotel