I attended the June 16, 2022 Camden County Commission meeting at 10:00 a.m.
The new video and audio recording system was set up and operating for this meeting.
All commissioners were present.
The first two agenda items were Planning and Zoning re-zoning requests.
Westside Wharf Holdings wanted to re-zone a lot from R-1 to B-2.
Kim Willey from Planning and Zoning explained this was a lot acquired from the Missouri Highway Department. It was a small lot adjacent to their currently owned B-2 lot. The owners wanted to add it to their existing lot to adjust their impervious surface percentage requirement, but lots can’t be combined unless they have the same zoning.
A few people in the audience wanted to know more about the proposed project.
Willey stated it was the old Niangua Falls bar property. The owners planned to demolish the existing building and build a new restaurant bar on the property. Willey assured them it would have no impact on the entrance into Lamplighter Drive. The plans for the new restaurant include two pools. One will be for adults and the other will be for families.
This re-zone was approved unanimously by the Commission.
The second re-zone request was Thompson Sunrise Beach re-zone from R-1 to AR.
Willey explained that this owner also wanted to combine two lots. Once the two lots are combined, the new lot will be compliant for AR zoning.
Nobody chose to speak for or against this re-zoning request.
This re-zone request was approved unanimously by the Commission.
The final agenda item was for Review and Approval Certificates of Financial Documents for Building Repairs.
During the public comment portion, one person spoke to the Commission about her concerns that current tax revenue for Camden County has decreased from last year’s numbers. She wanted to make sure the Commission only approved repairs that were truly necessary.
Commissioner Gohagan confirmed that sales tax revenue for Memorial Day had been lower than expected.
Commissioner Williams said that since 2016, the ending balance of the Camden County budget has been increasing each year. His goal is to get the county’s reserves high enough to cover six months of operating expenses. Williams stated that he thought that now was the best time to borrow money since interest rates were still relatively low. Commissioner Williams told her he has a list of what will be repaired by the contractor and he would email it to her after the meeting.
Commissioner Williams explained that they are not basing the budget on the sales tax revenue received during the 2022 boom year. Commissioner Hasty expressed his opinion that some of those sales tax numbers will be stable revenue, because those tax dollars are coming from newly arrived year-round residents.
The next public commenter asked about what they are planning to do about the asbestos in the HVAC ductwork in the Annex Building. He asked if the county would be supervising the work carefully to make sure it was done to standard. He also mentioned that he talked to the bond agent and debt payment on the bond would be approximately $350,000 per year.
Commissioner Hasty responded that there is no asbestos in the ductwork. He felt that the work on the Annex would be completed quickly and they should be able to move employees over to work in the Annex soon after the project begins. Hasty said the contractor would be testing the Annex building every day during the repairs.
A Camden County employee asked if the Commission had considered buying a nearby bank building instead of putting so much money into renovating the Annex building. Commissioner Williams quoted numbers for the renovation of the Annex. I believe he said the repair cost for the Annex alone would be $660,000 for the exterior and $845,247 for the interior.
According to the Veregy bid documents, the total cost of the entire project will be $4,734,090.
I’ve included the Veregy document at the end of this post.
Commissioners Hasty and Williams both stressed that there has never been any plan to purchase the bank building for use by Camden County.
At this point, some of the Camden County employees also started asking questions.
The employees stated that there were holes drilled into their office walls that have the word “Asbestos” and a date written next to them. They were told by maintenance workers that they couldn’t even hang pictures on the walls because the walls contained asbestos.
Commissioner Hasty told the employees there is no asbestos in the Courthouse walls themselves. The asbestos is in the flooring, baseboards, and the ceilings. All of the asbestos will be removed during this project.
Commissioner Williams estimated the square footage of the Annex building at 13,000 sf and thought it was a good investment to improve a building of that size.
We then moved onto the bond ordinance itself. The ordinance was for a bond not planned to exceed $4.8 million. The bankers would go to market the next week and they should be able to get bids and present the bond for signature by Presiding Commissioner Hasty on Thursday. The bond market currently allows some bonds to be paid off early (2028 or 2030).
A long discussion by the Commission followed, but I’m just going to sum up the two positions.
Commissioner Gohagan was reluctant to have Camden County assume so much debt when they have access to large reserves and ARPA money. He preferred the original plan to fund the project with $2 million in ARPA money and finance the remainder with a bond.
Commissioners Hasty and Williams preferred to finance the entire amount with the bond. They felt the ARPA money would be better used to provide cash funding to the sewer and water districts who could then seek out matching funds from Missouri. This would effectively increase the buying power of the money. Commissioner Hasty also said that if there was an economic downturn looming, Camden County needed to have their cash reserves intact to avoid having to lay off workers. He stressed that having cash liquidity was a huge asset for the county, and he didn’t want to squander it.
The bank agent admitted he would benefit financially from Camden County assuming a bond. It’s his job to secure bond financing. He explained that Camden County’s strong cash reserves are what will allow the county to get good rates on their bond. He also mentioned to the commissioners that Camden County needed to develop a formal Capital Improvement Plan because that is something that bond investors like to see in place when they evaluate a political entity for a bond.
After some discussion, nobody managed to convince anyone to change their minds.
Commissioner Williams made a motion to sign the bond ordinance. Commissioner Hasty seconded it.
It passed 2-1 with Commissioner Gohagan voting against it.
And that was that.