August 17, 2021 Camden County Commission meeting at 10:00 a.m.

This is a summary of the meeting.

All commissioners were present.

Camden County Commission. From left to right:
Legal Advisor Charlie McElyea, Commissioner Gohagan, Presiding Commissioner Hasty, and Commissioner Williams.

Besides the normal Camden County employees, there was a large contingent of county employees that walked in and filled the back rows of the meeting room. It reminded me of the Sheriff filling up the room with uniformed deputies for the August 5, 2021 meeting right before Commissioner Hasty suddenly suggested a $250,000 budget amendment to raise the deputy salaries. I guess the county employees figure what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Camden County Guerrilla Media checked the Virtual Nathan Hotline, provided coffee, and videotaped the meeting.

Right before the meeting, a gentleman sitting next to me asked me if I was the retired police officer who writes about the meetings. When I said I was, he told me his wife enjoyed the articles I write about them. I thanked him, but unfortunately I didn’t get his name.

I’ll do better next time. My grandma always said I lacked some social graces. Especially at meals where she claimed I “ate like a wolf and drank like a horse.”

Commissioner Gohagan asked what the status was on the budget amendment proposed by Commissioner Hasty at the previous meeting. This amendment was supposed to spend $250,000 to cover the raises to the deputies’ pay until the sales tax increase kicked in at the beginning of next year. Charles McElyea, the Legal Counsel to the Commission, said that the wording of the motion that passed covered the issue. Auditor Laughlin said they had sought legal counsel regarding the proposal. It’s evident they still don’t know where that money is going to come from.

The first agenda item was for the Assessor Bid Approval for the Assessment List Printing and Mailing. There was one bid for this. A citizen in the audience inquired if Camden County had actively solicited bids for this agenda item. The Assessor, Marty McGuire, stated there was no solicitation of bids and it was only advertised. The mailing bid was $800 cheaper than last year’s bid. The Assessor recommended the Commission accept this bid for $30,150.85.

This passed unanimously.

The Assessor also mentioned he wanted to ask about another matter. His department is currently entering the 2022 Budget planning process and he wanted to know if he could get a confirmation from the Commission if they were going to give raises for all Camden County employees. Commissioner Williams said the chances of that are 90%. The Commission told the Assessor he should have an answer within the week.

The second agenda item was for a bid on a vehicle lift for Road and Bridge. There were two bids. The Administrator for R&B, Patrick Wolf, was there at the meeting. He took a look at both bids and made a quick assessment of them. The bid from Champion was for $13,590 and was for a chain lift. The bid from Auto Tech was for $22,992 and was for a cable lift. The cable lift has more capability and can lift R&B’s “ton and a half” vehicles, but Wolf didn’t feel it was worth the extra cost.

Dear Commission, see how much easier this process works when the subject matter experts show up at the meetings?

This bid from Champion was accepted unanimously.

The third agenda item was for a GIS License Agreement. This was an agreement with Core Logic.

Approved unanimously.

The fourth agenda item was for a Request for Surplus Tax Money. This occurs when there is a tax sale and someone bids more on a property than was actually owed in back taxes. They can then request the difference back. Side note: This is coming up on August 23, 2021 and I messed around on the Camden County GIS and saw that you can select all the 2021 Tax Sale properties marked in red on the satellite map. If you see your property on there, you better run over to the Camden County Courthouse with a check!

The fourth agenda item was the Health Department Building Agreement. This was a confusing issue and is basically another example of a half-baked item being brought before the commission. There is apparently a space problem between the Camden County Health Department and Medical Missions for Christ. The Health Department has a lease that renews annually and appears to be sharing space with Medical Missions. Commissioner Gohagan wanted to know why the Health Department wasn’t at the meeting. Charlie McElyea (LATTC) said both sides need to sit down and review the agreement.

Commissioner Hasty said that the housing of the Medical Missions for Christ can bring up issues with using government space for religious organizations and it was better to have them in their current leased space. (I’m not sure the opposition would make much of a distinction there if Camden County is paying the lease).

Commissioner Williams made a motion to table the agreement. Gohagan almost immediately made a motion to reject the agreement. Commissioner Williams looked annoyed and laughed. McElyea (LATTC) said the agreement was not available to be rejected. Commissioner Gohagan, exasperated, then asked why the agreement was even before the Commission.

One of the audience members then asked why the Commission didn’t just reject the agreement? Commissioner Williams then seemed to change his mind and the Commission approved a motion to reject the Building Agreement.

Commissioner Hasty started to wrap up but I reminded him there was a Budget Amendment on the agenda. This sounded like it was a budget amendment to pay for shirts, clothing, and hand bags for the Medical Examiner’s Office. Commissioner Gohagan was skeptical about this amendment. I asked the Commission why we were paying for clothes and bags for the Medical Examiner when we already contract out to them for $200,000 annually.

In fact, some people might not know this, but we don’t actually have a Camden County Medical Examiner. Camden County contracts with Southwest Missouri Forensics for all of their Medical Examiner services. Southwest Missouri Forensics has a Facebook page if you want to check it out.

The $200,000 that Camden County pays each year covers the first 38 autopsies performed. After that, each additional autopsy will cost the county $2,100. Camden County also provides Southwest with two vehicles and pays for the fuel and maintenance for them. Camden County has to pay for a secure office space, laptops, software, and various other office expenses for Southwest. There is also an exception that allows Southwest to charge additional money in case of an extraordinary casualty event that exceeds Camden County’s normal “unusual death” count for the year.

It almost starts to sound like we might be better off having our own Camden County Medical Examiner’s Office and contracting our medical examiner services off to other counties.

This budget amendment was tabled. It seems silly that the contracted Southwest personnel would need special clothing. The medical examiner doesn’t need to wear a Camden County windbreaker while they’re performing autopsies. Commissioner Williams said that they’re still getting a feel for this arrangement so we’ll see what this budget amendment looks like when it comes back to the Commission later.

Before the Commission could go into closed session, one of the audience members asked if the Commission was going to raise the salaries of all Camden County employees after they showed a desire to raise the deputies’ salaries so significantly (+$5/hr) at the last meeting? Commissioner Williams seemed open to it but explained that the two salary increase issues were like “apples and oranges) because the temporary raise for the deputies doesn’t have to be sustained year after year.

They then did a roll call to go into closed session.

And that was that.

My Opinion:

Marty McGuire deserves a lot of credit for bringing up the issue of raises for all Camden County employees publicly before the Commission. He wasn’t advocating for it, but he was trying to get a commitment from them regarding the issue. A quick look through the budget shows you that most of the Camden County County employees aren’t being paid anywhere near enough for the great service they provide us every day. I hope they continue to come to the Commission meetings and watch what the Commission says and does. If a dozen on-duty deputies can stop what they’re doing and attend, it shouldn’t be a problem for other Camden County employees to be present and remind the Commissioners of the work THEY do every day. And the compensation THEY deserve.

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