The Blanche • The City steps up
Councilman Hill wants slow down
Columbia County, FL (posted
The continuing saga of Lake City's Blanche Hotel took
another twist on Monday night, October 19th, when the
Lake City Council voted to continue to explore the
purchase of the Blanche Hotel.
City Manager Wendell Johnson repeated again what he
has been telling everyone for months, "My interest is
the interest of Lake City. It [Blanche Hotel] is the
downtown commercial heart of the city and the county.
Councilwoman Melinda Moses told the Council, "We
can't just let the Blanche crumble."
Councilman Jake Hill responded, "Why haven't the
owners been keeping up the Blanche?"
Councilman George Ward told the Council that
originally the building was bought with twenty five
investors. Over the years the revenues of the building
have been declining and they have not had enough revenue
to keep everything up and they were having to pay the
city and county taxes; they were having to pay a
substantial insurance bill on that; the revenues weren't
covering the expenses and they were having to access all
these twenty five investors – now it's down to four.
Twenty one of them have dropped out of the investment
trust. (It appears that what Mr. Ward meant to say was
that there were only four members who actively
contribute money to maintain the Blanche.)
Councilman Jake Hill was troubled by the speed of the
proceedings and the lack of information.
Mr. Hill told the Council, "The city is bailing them
Mr. Ward responded, "We won't be bailing them out. We
will be getting appraisals and pay the appraised value
Mr. Hill asked, "What would be the cost to renovate?"
Mr. Ward said, "That would be the county's to do."
Mayor Stephen Witt told the Council, "I think it is
necessary that we look into it. We want to keep the
employees downtown. We do want to keep the downtown in
Mr. Hill was still not convinced, "I don't know if
this is the way to do it."
Mr. Ward told the Council, "If we don't do anything
then the building will probably go into default... We
lost many buildings to fires. We certainly don't need to
lose the Blanche."
After the meeting Councilman Hill explained his "no"
vote to the Observer: "I voted no because I don't think
there is enough information. I am looking forward to
seeing a representative of the Blanche Trust standing in
front of the City Council answering questions from the
Council and the public. We need more information if we
are going to use public money to buy the Blanche. We
have to slow down and get the facts."