I attended the May 3, 2022 Camden County Commission meeting at 10:00 a.m.
All commissioners were present.
The only people present at the meeting besides Camden County employees were Tom Abbett from the Ozark Amphitheater and myself.
The first agenda item was for Collector Bids for the 2022 Tax Sale Publication. There were two bids. The Reporter bid $325 and The Lake-Sun bid $350. The Collector asked if she could review them before the Commission voted on them.
The Commission tabled this item for review.
The second agenda item was Sheriff’s Bids for Garage Doors and Man Doors. These were for a 30 ft by 40 ft building with garage doors and a 40 ft by 80 ft building with garage doors. I would have asked more questions about what exactly these were for, but the Commission generally doesn’t like it when I blurt out too many questions. They only received bids on the 30 ft by 40 ft building. It was tabled so the Sheriff’s Office could review the bids. I should know more about this request when it comes up again.
The Commission tabled this item for review.
The third agenda item was an E911 Road Name Change.
Commissioner Gohagan reviewed the paperwork and said the documents were not complete.
This item was tabled.
The fourth agenda item was Sheriff Contract Shady Gators.
This is the contract for security between the Camden County Sheriff’s Office and Shady Gators. The cost for the deputies on this security detail has increased to $65 per hour of which $39.50 per hour goes to the deputies. From what I’ve heard, they’re earning that money.
This item was approved unanimously.
The final agenda item was for the Camden County parking lot adjacent to the Ozark Amphitheater.
Tom Abbett spoke to the Commission as a representative of the venue. Commissioner Hasty told Abbett he really appreciated the service the amphitheater has provided to the community.
Abbett told the Commission they are interested in leasing the parking lot for 5 months to use as an employee parking lot when their regular parking lots are full for concerts. They would use it from 4:00 p.m. until midnight and deploy portable lighting to illuminate the parking lot. They would block off the lot when they’re not using it.
The Ozark Amphitheater no longer charges for parking and they’ve spent an additional $40,000 in rock to improve the quality of their existing parking lots. The venue can currently park approximately 1800 cars.
Last year, Camden County had an agreement with Ozark Amphitheater to provide overflow parking for concerts and events. That agreement required the county to provide Camden County employees to run the parking lot and collect money from customers. The county ran the overflow lot for four concerts and made approximately $3,500 in profit. On the busiest night, they parked 230 cars on the lot.
Commissioner Gohagan proposed a 5 month lease at $1,100 per month.
Commissioner Hasty stated that Camden County has invested $60,000 into the parking lot. He knows someone who is willing to pay $200,000 for the lot, but Hasty felt that the property would be useful for Camden County in the future.
Then the negotiating began.
Abbett didn’t seem too keen on Commissioner Gohagan’s $1,100 per month lease. Abbett said that 90,000 people are projected to come to shows at the amphitheater this year.
Hasty mentioned that the Ozark Amphitheater brought in a lot of business to the county last year. (Come on, Greg! We’re trying to negotiate here!)
The Auditor said Camden County should just lease it for six months for $4,000.
Commissioner Hasty suggested they lease the parking lot for $3,500 because that’s what Camden County made from the lot in 2021.
Abbett said that they estimate that $500,000 is spent in Camden County for every 2,000 people who attend concerts at their facility. He also made a special show announcement that Darius Rucker will be performing there on September 10.
Charlie McElyea, the Legal Advisor to the Commission, said that he could write up a lease that rented the parking lot per show or on a monthly basis.
Commissioner Williams stated that Camden County isn’t using the parking lot anyway, so they wouldn’t require prior notification if the Ozark Amphitheater needed it. Commissioner Hasty seemed to have other ideas and he mentioned that the parking lot could be rented to other groups when the venue isn’t using it. He suggested they put a sign on the parking lot so people would know it’s available for lease.
Commissioner Hasty suggested a fee of $350 per day. Commissioner Williams agreed with that price.
Commissioner Gohagan proposed a fee of $500 per day.
Tom Abbett countered with a fee of $400 per day.
Commissioner Gohagan made a motion instructing Charlie to write up a contract for the Ozark Amphitheater to lease the parking lot for $400 per day as needed. This motion passed unanimously.
When the contract is ready, the commissioners will sign it.
And that was that.
I have to admit, Tom Abbett was a pretty masterful negotiator. I was impressed. He never even mentioned a price until the Commissioners were finished negotiating with each other. He just kept talking about how much business the amphitheater brings into the area. In the end, Camden County made $3,500 from four events last year and that parking lot will now cost the Ozark Amphitheater only $400 per event.
It’s only matched by last year’s arrangement where Camden County agreed to provide overflow parking at the county parking lot to the Ozark Amphitheater at no cost at all to them.