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The Lake News Online
  • My view: A step in the wrong direction

  • Two steps forward, and one step back.

    The city of Lake Ozark has made tremendous progress in the last few years in pulling itself into the 21st century and becoming a serious player among the lake's communities. To borrow a phrase, it's survival of the fittest.
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  • Two steps forward, and one step back.
    The city of Lake Ozark has made tremendous progress in the last few years in pulling itself into the 21st century and becoming a serious player among the lake's communities. To borrow a phrase, it's survival of the fittest.
    Strong administrative leadership has helped the city clean up its books to the point that the independent auditor recently praised the progress. The city is close to completing requirements of a District Court judgment order regarding a 2007 sewage spill that cost the city dearly, and cost an employee his job.
    The city has modernized its bookkeeping system and its sewer and water fee collection system. The city's first TIF has created the city's first retail center, The Shoppes at Eagles' Landing.
    Gone are the days of hours-long board meetings filled with rancor, distrust, petty infighting and the good-old-boy underpinnings that made the community a laughing stock. These are just a handful of examples of progress, none of which would have happened without forward-thinking, selfless leadership by the board of aldermen and administration.
    But suddenly there seems to be a bump in the road. Two ordinances on the Jan. 14 board of aldermen agenda, had they been approved, would have helped the city along it's new-found path to progress.
    One bill would have cleaned up policy manual language regarding employee benefits, specifically vacation, holiday and sick leave accrual. Police Chief Mark Maples, whose officers have been "donating" several hours each pay period because of the policy manual wording — said his staff and that of another city department are unhappy. It's difficult enough to attract and retain quality officers and employees without support from the board of aldermen.
    Alderman Jeff Van Donsel said the board of aldermen should review the policy manual section by section and then authorize any changes. City Administrator Dave Van Dee pointed out that city policy places that responsibility in his realm of duties.
    An unfortunate power struggle.
    The other bill would have — at no cost to the city — allowed the city to enter in to a consulting agreement with experts in the field of 21st century telecommunications. Lake Ozark, like many communities around the lake, does not have the personnel to monitor the rapidly changing world of wireless communications. Osage Beach, Camdenton and Camden County currently use the services of the consultant to guide them through the morass of telecommunications.
    Alderman Jeff Van Donsel quipped that if Osage Beach suddenly "went away," the city of Lake Ozark wouldn't know what to do. That type of thinking is not healthy for a community that wants to move forward. If that philosophy were used as a basis for all city policy decisions, Lake Ozark would still have horses tied to hitching posts along The Strip. The two ordinances failed by a positive vote of 3-2 because a two-thirds majority is required for approval of an ordinance. Alderman Larry Buschjost was absent, although his presence may not have made a difference.
    Page 2 of 2 - Alderman Judy Neels was correct when she said it's not the responsibility of the board of aldermen to micromanage. Well put.
    The city's history with city administrators is checkered, with at least three hanging their hats at Lake Ozark City Hall in the last decade. The more progressive communities around the lake have city administrators with tenure — not a revolving door of leadership.
    The city's failure to advance the telecommunications and policy manual changes leave the city vulnerable. The city thankfully approved extension of a moratorium on wireless towers, but that's only a superficial way to deal with major telecommunications companies who want carte blanche management of their industry. A consultant would be a buffer between the city and wireless companies.
    And, indirectly, not authorizing the policy manual changes — which impact the police department specifically — could affect public safety.
    No city is perfect. No company is perfect. No individual is perfect. But if the city of Lake Ozark seriously wants to become a competitor at the lake for residential, commercial and corporate expansion, then personal agendas and micromanaging should be set aside for the greater good of the community. This is no time to implement the regressive philosophy of "this is the way we've always done it."
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