Lake area resort owners are looking for answers regarding the funding of a proposed soccer complex that is currently on the ballot in November for Camdenton, Morgan and Miller Counties.

Lake area resort owners are looking for answers regarding the funding of a proposed soccer complex that is currently on the ballot in November for Camdenton, Morgan and Miller Counties.

A few of those resort owners gathered for a meeting with the Camden County Commission on Wednesday morning to share their concerns with Presiding Commissioner Greg Hasty, Commissioner Don Williams and Camden County Attorney Charles McElyea. Among those concerns were the validity in the math of eight soccer fields sufficiently bringing in the $75 million in projected revenue to cover the cost of the complex and the transparency of the Tri-County Lodging Association and its ability to put this proposal on the ballot and effectively tax resort owners. It is a concern as old as the founding of the United States itself- taxation without representation- and resort owners want to make sure their voice is heard.

In 2016 the CVB completed a two-phase feasibility study conducted by Convention & Sports Leisure (CSL) on recreational complexes. The study indicated the Lake Area could support a destination tournament soccer complex with 12-14 tournaments with 50-300 teams each weekend in the spring and again in the fall. It is estimated that this would have a $75 million economic impact annually for the Lake Area. In order to fund this project, they estimate costs of around $20-22 million.

Matt Foote, the owner of Skyline Resort, was the first to address the commission and like many of the resort owners present, he felt he was unrepresented and did not get a say in regards to the soccer complex. Doing his own research and adding up the math, he projected that 12 to 16 fields would be needed to meet the mark of $75 million instead of the eight currently proposed.

Another resort owner, Dave Huffman, shared his concerns regarding TCLA and how it administers funds. He cited a statute dating back to 1993 regarding Camden County’s authority to oversee the use of public funds and how the organization of the Camden County Business District was flawed from its inception with no commissioners taking on the role of being on the board to ensure the proper use of public funds. Huffman’s main point of concern was that TCLA- a private entity- has stepped in and filled the role with no oversight, including no official public minutes, under the guise of a public entity that can shift between public and private operations without transparency when it is convenient to do so. Huffman also shared that he had been involved in a 5-year legal case in terms of paying a lodging tax because it was a tax that was not administered by Camden County itself.

Another point of concern shared by Huffman is that there was no way for the public to ensure that board members from TCLA on the Camden County Business District were properly and certifiably elected under current election laws- even though it has the ability to use public funds. This was also a concern shared by resort owner Laura Martin who noted that there are no certified ballots and that TCLA tallies the final vote. She was also concerned that people who do not live in the state may have the ability to weigh in and vote as well. Martin also addressed the issue of opportunity cost and the competitive advantage for resort owners with this tax being passed onto consumers.

To address some of these concerns, the commission responded noting that it will will look into how much authority it actually has to oversee the use of public funds in this regard and check with County Clerk Rowland Todd about the elections. However, the commission also noted that it is not sure that it can even withhold any public funds and that this is a matter that will likely have to be addressed in court. As for appointing a board member to the Camden County Business District- which resort owners noted that it seemingly did not officially exist- Hasty was unaware of this role and the fact that statute states that a commissioner is supposedly supposed to serve a 2-year term.

The commission will look into this as well and noted that all of their steps to resolve these matters will be of public record. The immediate recourse resort owners can take is through the legal system as they can request an audit of TCLA from Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway, seek a temporary restraining owner and even sue Camden County to get to the bottom of the issue. The commission will have a written legal opinion from the county attorney as it seeks to address the concerns shard by resort owners.