Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City

The Great Lake Shore Hosp Auth Land Give-a-way Financed by Columbia Cnty Tax Payers, City Scores

The city block in the circle was purchased with LSHA Columbia County tax dollars. Including the cost of demolition and legal fees, it appears to have cost over $700,000.

LAKE CITY/COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last night in City Hall, the Lake Shore Hospital Authority land-buying spree, orchestrated by Jackson P. “Jack” Berry in the mid-2000’s, paid off for Lake City, when the City Council approved an Interlocal Agreement, previously approved by the Authority, giving a city block of Hospital Authority land to Lake City. The property, including legal fees, demolition, and other expenses appears to have cost the Authority tax-payers over $700,000. Now worth $34,000, it will be turned into a parking lot.

The values are from the  Columbia County Property Appraiser's website at 3 am today.

During last night's CRA/City Council meeting, City Manager Wendell Johnson explained that the land dealing with Manager Berry began last October, although, he added, "We got into this over the last three years." Mr. Johnson said he approached Jack Berry about the "land masses and what their [Lake Shore Hospital Authority] intent was goin' to be for those properties."

Mr. Johnson said, "The project that this property is gonna' to be used for – the expansion of Wilson Park – is obviously gonna' be a win for the City and a win for the Hospital itself." (see the common area)

Property Appraiser valuations. Now appraised at $34,000.

The property given away last night was acquired during the Authority land buying spree in the mid 2000's. The buying spree was orchestrated by the then Jeb Bush appointed Authority Board member, Jackson P. "Jack" Berry. It was not clear at the time why all this property was being purchased, however, some folks made a lot of money flipping the properties before they finally ended up on the Authority's books.

The purchase of the properties was financed by the property owners (read tax-payers) of all of Columbia County. The Lake Shore Hospital is a Special Taxing District established by the Legislature.

The hospital, Shands at Lakeshore, is owned by one of the largest hospital operators in America, Community Health Systems (CHS), which bought the hospital from Hospital Management Associates (HMA) in 2014. According to CHS, it owns 199 hospitals in 29 states. The hospital is leased from the Lake Shore Hospital Authority (Authority). The Authority's board has been appointed by Florida Governor, Rick Scott. CHS trades on the NYSE, ticker symbol CYH.

The Lake Shore Hospital Authority

On Monday, May 11, the Authority Board approved the Interlocal Agreement between the City and the Authority. Authority Manager, Jack Berry, did not release the Agreement before its discussion and approval, effectively eliminating the public's right to comment, a violation of SB50, which gives the public the right to comment on matters coming before the board before approval.

The Authority Board discussion was limited and the Board members did not appear to have read the agreement.

Long time Board member, Mark Vann, asked Manager Berry, "You say we're gonna get some property, possibly?"

Manager Berry answered, "Yeah. The Interlocal – what it says is, as the City – the City comes in possession of property that's contingent to the Hospital Authority property – that we'll have first shot at that."

Board member Creel, without any comment during the discussion, voted against approving the Agreement, which will enable Lake City to convert the former Authority  property, now according to Columbia County's property appraiser valued at $34,000, into a parking lot.

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