Lake City votes 4-1 to pay Columbia County Commissioner on defaulted contract
Lake City, FL (Posted May 17, 2011 10:10 am)
Last night in Lake City, City Manager Wendell Johnson made the case to the City Council for the City Community Redevelopment Agency, which is the City Council wearing a different hat, to pay County Commissioner Jody DuPree $56,800 for work on a project that had gone south almost five years ago and was based on a contract, which Commissioner DuPree was clearly in default. The City Council voted 4 to 1 in favor of the payment.
According to both the City and Commissioner DuPree, there is another developer in the wings looking to buy and develop Commissioner DuPree's property.
Com DuPree has a Federal Tax Lien filed against him. He recently told the Observer that he was going to pay the money "When I have to." It looks like Lake City will be helping the Commissioner out.
On April 25, 2011, Commissioner DuPree wrote a letter to the City. He explained the failure of his 2007 proposed project this way: "Due to unforeseen circumstances the project was placed on hold."
Last night CM Johnson told the City Council, "I look at it as a new development, a new business, coming downtown that will bring value to the area."
CM Johnson added, "Clearly the previous arrangement is no longer in effect today -- it's expired ... The conditions and the spirit on which the Council approved it back in 2007 for the payment of the money for the demolition of the buildings can still apply today, since he has done that. If this company does come forward for their permits, builds their building... we have gained value to the city... the project is going to materialize, unlike it did last time when it failed."
CM Johnson explained that he thought once the new project began, Mr. DuPree would come back before the CRA and with the assistance of City Attorney Herbert Darby a "new arrangement" would be drawn up.
Commissioner DuPree wanted 5 grand more
Mr. DuPree, who is also chairman of the Columbia County Board of County Commissioners, made a brief appearance at the City Council.
Commissioner DuPree addressed the City Council at the invitation of Mayor Witt, a courtesy which the Mayor and the City Council give to everyone who appears at City meetings – a courtesy that Commissioner DuPree and the County Commission give to no one.
In recent correspondence to the City, Commissioner DuPree also asked for $5000 in engineering fees which were never part of any written agreement that was made with Lake City in 2007.
Last night, Commissioner DuPree explained it this way: "In order to try to move the project along is I agreed to pay the engineering fee -- for the pond -- and the city agreed to construct the pond... that was somethin that come up after the fact, once we got into the project last time that we paid to do that part."
Who does the City deal with now?
Your reporter addressed the City Council and pointed out what everyone already knew, the 2007 contract between DuPree Construction and Lake City had lapsed and was not in effect.
Your reporter asked, "Who does the City deal with now?"
Councilman Ward responded, "Mr. DuPree -- Mr. DuPree is going to construct the building."
CM Johnson said that Mr. DuPree is not developing the project.
Mr. Ward: "I thought he was going to build the building."
City Manager Johnson: "He is going to sell the building."
City Councilman Eugene Jefferson weighed in with his opinion. He said, "Whether Mr. DuPree or whoever develops that property down there... nobody gets any money until a business is there... as a Councilman, I am looking for a finished product.
After some more discussion and with Commissioner DuPree having left the room sometime before, Councilman Ward moved that the City pay Mr. DuPree $56,800 for the cost of the demolition and $5000 for the newly discovered engineering costs.
Councilman Hill saw the folly
The Clerk polled the City Council. Councilman Jake Hill was the only Council member who voted against giving Mr. DuPree the money.
After the meeting, the Observer asked Councilman Hill why he voted "nay."
Councilman Hill told the Observer, "The contract was void and had expired four years ago. Commissioner DuPree did not meet his obligations as laid out in the contract. He is selling the property. He should have worked out a deal with the new developer to recoup his costs. That money the City has now agreed to give Commissioner DuPree should have gone to further enhance and revitalize downtown Lake City."