April 6, 2023 Camden County Commission meeting at 10:00 a.m.

The Gadfly attended the April 6, 2023 Camden County Commission meeting at 10:00 a.m.

The meeting was held in the conference room of the Commission Building.

All commissioners were present.

The first agenda item was P&Z Board Appointment – George Pruitt.

George Pruitt was proposed as a new member of the Planning and Zoning Commission. Commissioner Skelton mentioned that they have worked diligently to fill the vacant positions on the P&Z Commission. Pruitt will fill the Niangua spot even though he is not from that township.

There is now only one spot left: the Kiheka Township position.

I muttered under my breath that Matt Burns is from Kiheka Township, but the commissioners didn’t seem to hear me. Somewhere out in Camden County, Matt probably felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.

The second agenda item was Budget Amendment – Sheriff.

The Sheriff stated that Phase 2 of his LEST2 quarter cent sales tax plan was supposed to give salary raises to the detention officers and dispatchers. You can read what I wrote about this sales tax which was passed almost 2 years ago at the link below:

Sheriff Helms and the Quarter Cent Sales Tax

According to Sheriff Helms, at the beginning of this year, the Sheriff’s Office implemented an 8.7% raise across the board for all of the employees. The civilian corrections employees were left out of this raise. This budget amendment would provide an 8% raise across the board for the corrections employees.

Helms explained that the amendment would simply move $66,691 from the Deputy Wage line item to a Corrections line item. This would not be a budget increase because the Sheriff’s Office has not been able to hire the ten new deputies who were planned to be funded by the sales tax increase. Thanks to this shortfall, there is a surplus in the Deputy Wage line item. Next budget year, this pay raise will be funded by the LEST2 sales tax.

This item was approved unanimously.

The third agenda item was Contracted Trucking Bid Awards.

Camden County made changes to the previous bid terms to ensure the bidding companies were properly insured and carried workers compensation insurance. The companies/operators who bid were:

Clayton Drake

Kenny Carroll

RD Carter Trucking

Bobby Walters

Willow Ridge Trucking

R&K Trucking

These bids were unanimously tabled so they could be reviewed by Road and Bridge.

The fourth agenda item was March Tax Abatements.

They were approved unanimously.

The fifth agenda item was the Forvis Grant Management Contract.

Forvis is the new name for BKD. BKD was the consultant Camden County contracted with to provide guidance and reporting for the $8.9 million of federal ARPA money it received. Apparently, Forvis merged with BKD. The contract is not to exceed $200,000 for the life of the contract and the county is billed based on its usage of Forvis’ services.

Commissioner Gohagan asked Auditor Jimmy Laughlin how much the county had paid Forvis so far?

Jimmy said he didn’t know.

County Attorney Jeff Green estimated they spent approximately $20,000 on BKD last year.

The Auditor explained that Camden County needed the assistance of Forvis to complete the reporting requirements and documentation that the federal government insists upon for ARPA spending. Commissioner Gohagan perused the contract and read aloud the sections that absolved Forvis of any responsibility or guarantees should there be problems with the ARPA expenditures and reporting.

The commission voted unanimously to table this item for review.

Commissioner Skelton then invoked the Privilege of the Chair to discuss a new topic that was not on the agenda.

He explained that he was recently informed by the Planning and Zoning Department that they had received four email inquiries from the ATF asking questions about four individuals who possessed federal firearm licenses within Camden County. The ATF asked Planning and Zoning if the residents were in compliance with all zoning laws and business licensing requirements.

Skelton said that Camden County had passed a SAPA ordinance forbidding the county and its employees from assisting the ATF. Skelton also referred to the Anti-Commandeering Doctrine which states that state and local agencies are not required to assist federal agencies.

Camden County prepared a response letter to the ATF which he read aloud. The letter clearly denied the ATF request based on the reasons above. The commissioners voted unanimously to send the response letter.

Sheriff Helms was asked for his opinion and he volunteered to sign the letter also.

Commissioner Skelton felt that these ATF zoning inquiries were part of a federal strategy to revoke as many FFL licenses as possible in order to restrict the sale of firearms to large retail corporations.

The final agenda item was Magic Dragon Presentation.

This was a presentation by the folks who have been working to develop the Magic Dragon Trail. The Magic Dragon Trail is a plan for a large network of biking and hiking trails throughout the lake area. They discussed their intention to develop their trail network and various fundraising techniques that have been proven successful so far.

They have already raised $320,000 in cash donations. They were also allocated $150,000 in ARPA funding by the Camden County Commission. Branches for the Lake has been established as a new non-profit to raise money for this project.

$154,000 was spent to prepare a master plan for the trail system.

They have applied for two grants, but were rejected for both of them. (This is typical for Camden County. Most grants go to Kansas City or Saint Louis.) One of the grants included building a pedestrian bridge across the Grand Glaize. Despite these setbacks, they still intend to seek funding through other grants and might still receive grant funding in future rounds.

The group requested a new letter of support from the commission which was granted. These letters expire every thirty days so they have to be renewed monthly. Sheesh.

It seems like this project is progressing nicely. The organization will continue to raise funding in the future and if you haven’t seen the free bike skills course they built over at the Osage Beach YMCA, you should really check it out.

And that was that.

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