All commissioners were present. There were about a dozen people in the audience besides the usual county employees who attend.
During the Public Comment portion, Tom Wolfe from Climax Springs brought up the issue of the Climax Springs park. The village of Climax Springs was disincorporated in 2015 and several plots of land that were owned by the village became Camden County property. Wolfe was concerned that the Commission was planning to sell this land because Climax Springs Real Estate Appraisal was on the agenda. The land includes one of the historic springs the area was named for.
Wolfe said the Climax Springs school is willing to maintain the property. He mentioned that when the county took over Mack’s Creek, it had established a park there and he would like the same treatment for Climax Springs.
Commissioner Williams said Camden County is getting an appraisal in the hope that the property value of the lots would be low enough that Camden County could declare it as surplus property and give it to the school district. Commissioner Hasty agreed with this.
Commissioner Gohagan asked Charles McElyea, Legal Advisor to the Commission, what property value would require the county to put the property up for bid. Charlie said there was no set price required but if it had little value, it could be donated to the school.
According to Charlie, Camden County could lease the property to the school. Gohagan mentioned that the playground equipment on the property is so dilapidated that there would be liability if a child injured themselves on the equipment. According to Charlie, if Camden County leased the property, the liability could still be covered by Camden County’s insurance.
Tom Wolfe was on a roll so he also asked the Commission if they could remove the old abandoned city hall trailer that is on the property. The commissioners said they would look into having it removed. Wolfe ended his public comments by asking for them to fix some of the nearby roads also. Might as well swing for the fences!
It sounded like the Commission was amenable to working with the Climax Springs school to resolve the issue of the maintenance of those county-owned lands. I’m not sure this agenda item was formally addressed after this public comment.
The first agenda item was a presentation by Charter Communications by a gentleman who I believe was named Paul Baron. He was there to give Charter’s pitch to help Camden County spend its ARPA relief money on broadband expansion. This presentation was the same as all of the other ones we’ve heard so I’m not going to go into much detail here. He said the project would depend on how much money Camden County would spend and how much Charter would get with its Return On Investment. He estimated that it would cost an average of $41,000 per mile to lay fiber for broadband.
Charter’s low estimate of how many Missouri subscribers they have was 856,000. They would need an address database for Camden County to get a more accurate census of broadband access since the current FCC surveys are inaccurate.
The next agenda item was the Camden County Water and Sewer District #4. John Summers, senior advisor for the district, talked first and he said they are working on expanding the Shawnee Bend plant and the Racquet Club plant. The Shawnee Bend plant is already over capacity and the Racquet Club plant is struggling to handle demand for water and sewer services during the tourist season from February to Labor Day.
The next person who spoke was the district’s engineer, Darren Krehbel. He confirmed that the flows during holidays and the summer are higher than the current plants are designed to handle. If I understood him correctly, the flows are worst on rainy days during the tourist season because more people are inside and you have a lot more toilets flushing because people aren’t out on the lake. He warned that the current federal administration has reverted its wastewater policies back to those of the Obama administration and a revision of those policies would likely make the wastewater requirements even stricter.
He said that matching funds are available from DNR for these types of projects.
According to Summers, CSWD#4 did a bond issue earlier this year that raised $7 million but they currently have $8.5 million in projects they need to fund. They are seeking that additional $1.5 million from Camden County, but by using the matching DNR funds, it would only require $750,000 in ARPA money.
Engineer Krehbel and Summers explained further. They have 750 customers in Horseshoe Bend and 1,000 customers in Shawnee Bend. The Shawnee Bend plant was designed to handle 100,000 gallons but currently handles peaks of up to 130,000 gallons. This can be managed for the time being but not forever. The Racquet Club plant bumps up to its capacity during the tourist season especially as mentioned above during rainy weather.
There will be a meeting with DNR on December 3, 2021 at 9:00 a.m. in the Commission meeting room.
Commissioner Gohagan seemed to prefer spending ARPA money on sewer and water as opposed to broadband. Commissioner Hasty agreed with him and seemed pleasantly surprised that they agreed on this use of the money. They both stated that sewer and water improvements would be the best use for the ARPA funds. Summers mentioned that when the water and sewer districts expand, they also take on new customers who previously had discharge permits which allowed them to discharge into the lake. As these customers switch to sewer, it makes the lake water cleaner.
Commissioner Hasty stated he worked for a big trial attorney from Los Angeles who owns a lot of land out here. That attorney told him that the Southwest was drying up and people would start coming here because we had water.
My Opinion: I agree that sewer and water might be a better use of the ARPA money for the following reasons:
- The money would be invested in sewer and water districts that Camden County owns. Not into a broadband line that would then be used exclusively by a broadband company for profit.
- It’s much easier to see what you’re getting from sewer and water projects because you can more easily measure their capacity. It would be difficult to prove that a broadband company was living up to its portion of the deal as far as levels of broadband service are concerned.
- A sewer and water project is much less complicated than a broadband partnership deal. I don’t think Camden County currently has an employee who would be able to supervise and monitor a broadband agreement with a large broadband partner.
- The lake is what generates almost all of the commercial activity in the area. Investing money into protecting that resource also means investing money into protecting that economy.
If the broadband companies want to expand services in our county, let them do it on their own dime instead of Camden County subsidizing them. I believe they tabled this item.
The third agenda item was for a tax abatement. It was approved unanimously.
The fourth agenda item was for the Road and Bridge bids from last meeting. The Road and Bridge administrator recommended accepting the bid from Geromini for the Ozark Isle road collapse repair and Kenny Carroll Excavating for the Whistle Bridge/Tunnel Dam project. Both bids were the lowest bids.
The Commission voted to accept these bids unanimously.
The final agenda item was for the E911 bid. The bid came in late. Charlie said they should not open the bid and just treat it as a no bid. Since the unopened bid was from the same company that has done this work for the county for years, the E911 representative can negotiate with that vendor and bring the negotiated bid back to the Commission at the next meeting. Makes sense. This bid was tabled unanimously by the Commission.
And that was that.