Historic City News believes that the US Veterans Administration is playing a dangerous game of “cat and mouse” with St Johns County Administrator Michael Wanchick — one that they will probably lose when the Veterans Clinic reaches the end of their lease extension of space located in the former Health and Human Services Building, now owned by Lowes.
From records obtained by Historic City News, yesterday; Mary Ann Blount, the county’s Director of Land Management Systems, sent a letter to VA Lease Contracting Officer, Rachel Griner, confirming that the VA has been in a lease “holdover” since their lease with the county expired on April 30 2014.
“This letter does not constitute a waiver of any of the County’s rights and remedies should the VA holdover beyond June 30, 2014,” Blount’s letter to Griner said.
Blount confirmed that St Johns County recently extended the terms of VA Lease V573R-46 to June 30, 2014 — however, that was solely for the purpose of expediting the processing of rent payments that the county had received; “and should not be construed as a willingness to execute further short term amendments which simply postpone and fail to address a comprehensive resolution of the issue.”
The elephant in the room, of course, is that St Johns County no longer owns the building originally cast as St Augustine General Hospital, the County’s rights at this point are those of a tenant under a master lease that will terminate on March 31, 2015. At that time, the premises must be completely vacated and the building is being demolished.
During the course of investigating the circumstances leading up to the very real possibility that about 5,000 United States veterans may have to travel to a location outside of St Johns County to receive medical care, we uncovered repeated attempts to accommodate the Veterans Administration in the relocation of the clinic to the new multi-million dollar Health and Human Services building, nicknamed the Gauze Mahal, the VA denial of interest in such a move, and an opposite and equal attempt by the VA to evade cooperation with the county and to resist compliance with the terms of their expired lease.
Historic City News has investigated the timeline of events, dating back to October 12, 2011; at which time, Mary Ann Blount sent a letter to Cynthia Halstead, VA Administration, informing her that Lowe’s had presented St. Johns County with a Purchase & Sale Agreement to be considered at the 11/1/2011 St. Johns County Board of County Commissioner’s meeting and that following the closing, they would have two years to vacate the premises.
As soon as thirty days following that notification, the County was aware that they might be facing a problem — one that today, more than two years later, has not been resolved. And, it appears the VA is not too concerned about it.