All commissioners were present. The following is a summary of the meeting.
There was a group of about half a dozen people present to observe the meeting. It was nice to have a few more people in the audience. It definitely has an impact on how the meetings are conducted.
The first agenda item was for bids for Road and Bridge wing wall extensions. No bids were received. A representative from Road and Bridge stated they contacted vendors but didn’t receive any bids back. The auditor stated if they receive no bids, they can then seek a quote from wherever they can get one. This item was tabled.
The second agenda item was for a concrete pad for the Camden County Sheriff’s Office. The pad will be 40 feet by 80 feet with six inches of concrete. They received one bid from Bill Girard Concrete for $28,600. A representative from the Sheriff reviewed the bid and he said it met their requirements. The Commission approved this bid unanimously.
The third agenda item was for budget amendments. The first amendment was moving $9,198 from General County Miscellaneous to LEST legal fees. Someone mentioned this was for the “Jeff Franklin” lawsuit.
The second amendment was to move $18,000 from the Sheriff’s Office Fuel and Oil to the Uniforms, Vests, and Vehicle Maintenance line item. $8,000 of the money was to be used on uniforms and badges.
Both budget amendments were approved unanimously.
There was an item on the agenda for 11:00 a.m. listed as “Wisper Internet”. Since there was a gentleman in the audience named Damian Lemens from Wisper Internet, the commissioners agreed to let him talk to them earlier than scheduled. There was also another group of guys from a different internet company who asked to be placed on a future meeting agenda to speak to the Commission. It’s pretty apparent that local internet companies are aware that Camden County has received millions of dollars in 2021 ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) money that can be used on rural broadband.
The gentleman was named Damian Lemens. He described Wisper’s current efforts to build new towers around Camden County. Wisper will soon be opening an office in Osage Beach. He also mentioned that they recently were cleared with American Tower to use one of their towers in Mack’s Creek. This will add four access points and 800 customers. He gave a presentation that was probably a lot longer than he thought it would be. He answered the Commission’s questions on a variety of topics from cellular service to tower construction costs. During his remarks, it became pretty clear that everyone in the industry thinks that fiber service is vastly superior to wireless internet service.
And that was that.
It will be interesting to see how Camden County invests the ARPA money to expand broadband access. The money could be used as a joint government/corporate project to lay fiber or build towers to those areas of the county that currently have no access to it all. By defraying part of the cost, Camden County could make it more lucrative for companies to invest in areas that otherwise wouldn’t have the customer base to justify the expense of expanding service to them.
Does Camden County want to get into the business of owning fiber lines? How do they make sure the company they sign an agreement with actually follows through with the level of service they promised? Who would manage the agreement on the Camden County side of things and ensure we are getting our money’s worth?
Since you can apparently only get yourself added to the agenda if you’re an internet provider, I approached Charles McElyea (Legal Advisor to the Commission) after the meeting and told him that I knew the Camden County Commission had a closed session on September 22 and they had never notified the public about it. I had spoken to the Commission secretary last week and she told me the reason the closed session wasn’t posted online was because the Camden County internet was down. Yep. They have bad internet. I had to laugh.
Charlie told me the same thing and I explained to him that I knew that already, but the Commission meeting still has to posted, even after the fact, so the people of Camden County will know that such a meeting occurred. They simply are not allowed to have secret meetings. They also have to list the subsection for the reason why the meeting was closed. This is all required by the Missouri Sunshine Law.
From the Missouri Sunshine Law FAQ:
“Yes. Section 610.022, RSMo, requires that public governmental bodies give at least 24 hours notice of each proposed closed meeting and the reason for holding it by reference to the specific exception allowed under § 610.021, RSMo. Section 610.022, RSMo, also states that no public governmental body can move from an open meeting into a closed meeting without a roll call vote, and that the vote and the specific section of § 610.021, RSMo, shall be publicly announced and entered in to the minutes.”
Charlie tried to say that they are only required to put a little posting on a bulletin board to notify the public, but he knows better and I told him so. Camden County has an established practice where they post their Camden County Commission meeting schedule online on their website. You can’t deviate from that just because you want to have a secret meeting.
It’s still not posted on their website so they can still pretend it never happened and we don’t know why the Camden County Commission met or why they closed it to the public.