Converting the old Montreal MoDOT building into an animal facility seems to have sparked controversy in Camden County. Surprisingly, the controversy is not surrounded on the fact that it is supposed to be a kill shelter. Instead, some county residents are upset with how the purchase of the building and the fact that the facility would be coming into the area was not communicated openly with the residents. "I am not a hater of animals. I love animals, but I think when communities take on projects like this, the least the county can do is inform the citizens of what they are going to be doing and hold public hearings," John Book said.
Book is the pastor of Buffalo Prairie Baptist Church, which is located next door to the building and is the owner of 18 acres directly west of the property. Book described the way this situation has been handled by the current Camden County commission as "under the radar."
Book found out about the building being converted into an animal facility when he read an article in the Lake Sun. He then visited with Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken in an attempt to receive more details. Book recalled asking Franken, "Why wasn't there a public hearing to inform land owners and interested citizens in the community about what is happening? 'Cause it's a big deal." According to Book, Franken replied, "We don't need to do that."
Book said that he was shocked by Franken's behavior. "As soon as I brought up the subject, his demeanor changed. He got angry immediately," he said. "Almost like 'how dare I challenge his authority.' The more questions I asked the angrier he got," Book added.
Book recalled, "He wasn't giving me straight answers. He was going round about trying to act like I didn't know what I was talking about when I had already done some homework on the issue. As I went to leave his office, I said, 'Mr. Franken, I'm not making any headway here. I'm not getting any straight answers, so I guess I'll take another route here and go about it another way.' He got up from his desk came over and literally got in my face. His voice was raised and I thought he was out of control." Book admitted that he was upset when Franken was as he said "out of control," but said he tried to stay calm, "I never used bad language. I never did anything out of order, I think." Book left Franken's office with more questions than when he arrived.
A public hearing was held about a month later at the Montreal building. Franken and Sheriff Dwight Franklin were on hand to answer questions and address resident's concerns. They did not start the meeting with any sort of presentation, but instead simply opened up the meeting to residents and welcomed their questions. Book was among the attendees. He felt as if there was not a "direct answer to a question" given.
One of the major concerns brought up during the public hearing was the environmental impact on the property when the animal facility is up and running. "He [Franken] is claiming that there will not be any environmental impact with smells or noise," Book said. He and other residents find that hard to believe. Book also added that he feels like the new addition would affect his property value. He was planning on building homes on his 18 acres and is afraid that the animal facility next door may put a damper on his plans.
Book realizes that it is most likely too late to stop the facility from coming into the area, but hopes the commission learns how to communicate with residents from now on.
Lake Sun attempted to contact Commissioner Franken for comment, but he had already left his office for the day.