Before we start, Merry Christmas and a big thank you to the thousands of people who have read this blog since it started in March of 2021. I write it because you all read it and it’s always gratifying to have people tell me they enjoy it. The best way to have a local government that is responsive to your needs is to stay involved.
The following is a summary of the meeting. All commissioners were present.
There were a few community members in the audience. About twenty Sheriff’s Office employees and deputies came into the meeting room and packed the seating area on the left side. Based on my previous experience, this usually means somebody wants a raise.
The first agenda item was Community Foundation Trails. Jan Pyrtle was there and he is a member of the Magic Dragon Trails subcommittee of the CFT. This is the group that wants to build a network of interconnected biking trails around the lake which could serve as a year-round tourism draw like the Katy Trail for the lake area.
They have raised $150,000 in contributions from private groups and individuals. They’ve hired a company called Progressive Trail Design (they might want to rethink that name out here) to design the plan for the trail network. The total planning cost will be $78,000 and they have already paid 50% of that to start developing the plan.
$25,000 is being used for materials to build a bike skills course at the YMCA. They are currently trying to research if they can request federal ARPA money for the development of the trail. Commissioner Gohagan has done some research on this and read aloud a section of the ARPA rules that stated the money can be used for public recreation spaces and development. A motion was made to earmark $150,000 of ARPA money for the Magic Dragon Trail. This was passed unanimously.
Presiding Commissioner Hasty announced that Passport Services in the Commission office is open for business again. He said that nobody has been coming in to get passports and felt that might be because travel restrictions have reduced the demand for passports.
I figured it might be because they notified the public about the passports the same way they notify the public about public hearings. Just a thought.
The next agenda item was a tax abatement. The Commission abated the penalties and fees due to the death of the property owner.
The meeting should have been over at this point, but Commissioner Gohagan stated he was going to bring up some old business. He wanted to discuss premium pay for the Camden County employees who had worked through the COVID times. And now the heavy Sheriff employee attendance was explained.
Premium pay is an authorized use of ARPA funds but it is against Missouri law to pay employees retroactively for past work. Charles McElyea (Legal Advisor to the Commission) opined that the county cannot pay bonuses to employees. Commissioner Hasty stated that Travis Elliot from MAC (Missouri Association of Counties) said that counties should not pay premium pay because it is unconstitutional. Commissioner Hasty wanted to see a written legal opinion supporting premium pay before he voted for it. He explained that you would have to prove that 51% of the employee’s time they use was 100% related to COVID. Huh????
I just write it down, folks.
Greg Hasty also complained that this item wasn’t on the agenda which is pretty ironic if we remember back to Greg’s off-the-agenda bombshell he dropped a few days after the Sheriff’s sales tax increase passed. At that meeting, he sat down and made a motion to send $250,000 to the Sheriff’s Office to cover the deputy raises until the sales tax increase kicked in. That item was not on the agenda either. What’s good for the goose…
Commissioner Gohagan stressed that this was old business that had been discussed at previous meetings. There are currently about 300 non-elected Camden County employees and he suggested they receive a premium pay payment of between $1,000 and $2,000 each. Apparently, BKD (the consulting firm Camden County hired for $200,000 to help them spend the ARPA money) said other counties are using ARPA money for similar premium pay payments.
Charles McElyea said they should get something in writing from BKD. The Treasurer said they have $397,000 in ARPA cash right now and millions more on January 15, 2022 once their CD cashes out.
Commissioner Williams and Commissioner Gohagan were all for it. Commissioner Hasty seemed to have his doubts, but he was staring at about twenty grimly silent deputies and dispatchers who were hoping for extra Christmas presents under the tree so he changed his tune and got on board.
There was a question about whether Camden County could get a legal opinion from BKD before the end of the year. An audience member spoke up and said that for the amount of money we were paying BKD ($200,000), they should be assisting us with exactly these types of questions. She also said BKD should be meeting with the county regularly to track the ARPA money and that most of the county leadership should have access to BKD if they have questions. Presiding Commissioner Hasty said he hoped they could get this done before the end of the week.
And that was that.