July 6, 2021 Camden County Commission Meeting at 10:00 a.m.

Commissioners Gohagan and Hasty were present.

There were three of us in the audience besides the normal Camden County employees.

Virtual Nathan was not present for the meeting because the ethernet cable connected to his phone had been removed and used for a presentation that was held earlier in the meeting room. Commissioner Gohagan and Auditor Laughlin verified this after the meeting when they attempted to make the phone operational. Hmmmm.

Before the meeting started, Presiding Commissioner Hasty gave me a copy of the proposed Parking Lot Policy for the Camden County parking lot located at Business Highway 5 North and Old Highway 5 near the Ozark Amphitheater. I’ve attached images of the proposed policy.

The first agenda item was a Request for Surplus Money for a property. This property was associated with Laurie, James and David Haynes (sp)?. The request was approved unanimously by the commissioners.

I believe these requests occur when the tax sale bid amount on a property exceeds the delinquent property taxes owed on a property. The new property owner can then request the surplus money. I’ll verify this.

The second agenda item was the Parking Lot.

Camden County owned property near the Ozark Amphitheater and used a local excavator to haul loads of clay material from the property. The excavator took the clay material as the payment to haul it off site. Camden County then paid roughly $65,000 to gravel the property and turned it into a parking lot. Commissioner Hasty said Camden County invested $50,000 into the property in this meeting, but $65,000 is the actual approximate cost from the Auditor.

This created a public parking lot that I’d estimate could hold at least 200 cars (I’m not a professional parking lot eyeballer) close to the Ozark Amphitheater where people could park for free and then walk into the Ozark Amphitheater without paying the venue for parking. I’m sure the folks at the Ozark Amphitheater weren’t pleased about losing the parking revenue. People were also parking in the Camden County lot, walking down to the venue and flooding the amphitheater’s VIP and handicapped access entrance.

The proposed policy was drafted by Charles McElyea, the Legal Counsel to the Commission. He met with the attorney from the Ozark Amphitheater, Michael Flannery, and they agreed that the Camden County parking lot will be used for overflow for heavily attended events at the amphitheater. The Ozark Amphitheater identified four events that they believe will need to use overflow parking. The first concert date is July 9, only three days after this meeting. Commissioner Hasty stated the amphitheater will hold 10,000 people but they only have enough parking for 6,000.

The policy in summary says:

  1. Camden County owns the graveled parking lot near Ozark Amphitheater.
  2. The Camden County Commission was approached by the Ozark Amphitheater to use their parking lot for events that exceed their parking capacity.
  3. Camden County does not want to compete with Ozark Amphitheater for parking customers.
  4. Camden County will provide parking attendants for the lot and charge the same amount that Ozark Amphitheater charges for parking. Ozark Amphitheater will give Camden County 48 hours notice if they will need to use the overflow parking lot.
  5. Camden County will keep any parking revenue from its lot.
  6. Ozark Amphitheater can block the entrance to the Camden County parking lot 4 hours before any other concerts or events until the conclusion of the event to prevent people from parking there instead of at Ozark Amphitheater.
  7. At all other times, the Camden County parking lot will be open to the general public for parking.
  8. Camden County is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of its parking lot.

According to the policy, Camden County will provide employees to run the parking lot during those events. There was discussion about whether these would be Road and Bridge employees or Camden County deputies. It was decided the Sheriff’s Office would run the parking lot.

To me, this is just one more example of expecting law enforcement to come in and handle everything that doesn’t seem to be some other department’s area of responsibility. The Sheriff keeps telling us that his department is stretched to its limits so why would we now task the deputies with working as parking lot attendants on overtime? Sheesh.

The decision to use the deputies to run the parking lot was also a surprise to the Sheriff’s Office representative at the meeting. Apparently, nobody had given them a heads up that that they might be expected to run a parking lot and he had a lot of questions about how this was supposed to work. He had a good attitude about it and instead of complaining or pushing back against the new commitment, he exhibited the kind of positive approach we expect from our law enforcement agencies.

But there were lots of practical questions:

How much do we charge for parking? No one seemed to know for sure how much what Ozark Amphitheater even charges for parking, but some people in the room had been to events and said they charge $10 per vehicle.

How are we going to handle the money for the parking? The deputies will have to get a “drawer” of cash from the Treasurer so they can make change for the incoming cars and they will drop off the parking money at dispatch at the end of their shift. The parking money would then be taken to the Treasurer on Monday.

How will we know how many cars parked there? The Sheriff’s representative will go buy a roll of tickets and the deputies will give the tickets to incoming cars when they pay. There was some question that the public might be concerned about having the deputies handle the cash but that seemed ridiculous since these deputies are booking money, narcotics, and guns into evidence every day. If we can trust deputies to handle those tasks as part of their daily work, I think we can trust them to handle parking money. If we can’t, then we’ve got bigger problems.

Will the deputies be on shift or on overtime? This was my question because I was worried they might detail patrol deputies to the parking lot and take them off the road. Commissioner Hasty stated the parking lot would be an overtime shift.

How many deputies would be required for the detail? At least two or three? Not known at this time.

How long will the deputies have to work the parking lot? Nobody seemed to know. It sounded like it might be a 3-4 hour shift and it depends on the concert. Basically, the Camden County lot will only be opened once the Ozark Amphitheater parking capacity has been filled so there is potential that deputies could be assigned to an overflow lot that is not used because the amphitheater capacity overflow requirements are never met for that event.

How will the parking lot revenue and deputy pay be processed by Camden County? The Auditor will have to establish line items for the incoming parking revenue and the deputy salaries.

How will the parking lot be blocked off? Commissioner Hasty stated they block it off now but I think they’re using traffic cones so I’m not sure about that.

There was a discussion about moving the Camden County farmer’s market to the lot but the vendors require access to electricity which is currently not available on the site. This also made me wonder how the deputies are going to see once it starts to get dark. They better charge up their flashlights.

Presiding Commissioner Hasty stated he believes the parking lot was a good investment for Camden County and has had people approach him privately and they were willing to pay $200,000 for the lot. He thinks it is an asset to Camden County. The parking lot has not been offered to the Ozark Amphitheater for purchase. He also sees it as a potential future site for a Camden County Health Department office because the building they are currently in is “junk”.

The Auditor asked whether this additional use of the parking lot needed to be cleared through Camden County’s insurance policy. Commissioner Hasty and Charles McElyea seemed to think it would be fine.

The parking lot policy was approved unanimously.

And that was that.

One thought on “July 6, 2021 Camden County Commission Meeting at 10:00 a.m.

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