A recent public forum in Lake Ozark focused on information, ideas, and concerns about the deteriorating Bagnell Dam Strip surface and underlying roadbed in the almost 30 years since the last major resurfacing.

A recent public forum in Lake Ozark focused on information, ideas, and concerns about the deteriorating Bagnell Dam Strip surface and underlying roadbed in the almost 30 years since the last major resurfacing. A recent road survey by an engineering firm estimated a cost of $3 million dollars for the needed resurfacing affecting the entire length from the dam to the intersection of highway 54 near the Quality Inn. Those in attendance included almost two dozen citizens, plus representatives from businesses including J.B. Hooks and Big Thunder as well as Lake Ozark city staff including the police chief, city attorney, and aldermen.

Lake Ozark’s aldermen, at their last regular meeting, tabled a resolution in support of a TDD created specifically to fund resurfacing the strip. Some citizens and a few of the aldermen had questions about the proposed TDD solution. Tuesday night’s forum allowed a free-flowing exchange of information and ideas about the scope of the problem and the ramifications of a TDD solution. It remains to be seen if the Board of Aldermen are persuaded to pass such a resolution expressing formal support. Although the application process does not require city support, such support would send a message to those citizens within the proposed district who will ultimately vote up or down.

One of the few viable options available for financing such a costly project is a Transportation Development District (TDD). The forum was set to correct any misinformation and listen to citizen concerns. Larry Giampa, who describes himself as the owner of Blondie’s Burgers on the Strip, a citizen living in Lake Ozark, and an elected Alderman, attended to hear from citizens and help explain the operation of a TDD even though no city or county government can be involved in either the creation or day-to-day operation of such a TDD under Missouri statutes. A TDD can be formed to collect additional sales tax up to 1% in a defined geographical area for the purpose of financing a specific project or projects as long as the projects are directly related to transportation.

A TDD may only be formed by and operated under the direct control of a private board of directors. The creation must be by a vote of those living within the outlined district, but a vote can only be held after TDD plans have been approved by the district court. Any tax money collected is subject to audit by the Missouri State Auditor’s Office and may never be co-mingled with city or county funds. After completion of the specific project for which the TDD was formed, the private board may further utilize incoming funds for other specific transportation related projects within the district after qualified voter approval. A TDD board may also apply for available grant money from appropriate Missouri state agencies to augment its collected tax monies for the purposes stipulated in the creation documents and enabling voter approval.

In past years, through the continued efforts of a diverse group of citizens, Lake Ozark city staff and elected officials, and business owners along the Bagnell Dam Strip, assembled as the Bagnell Dam Strip Association / Lake Ozark Betterment group, several problems have been identified and addressed. Primarily a lack of parking along the commercial portions of the street have driven the discussions as any event drawing patrons to the Strip is inevitably impacted by a shortage of parking.

One successful solution over the past two years has been a bus service to carry people from area lodges to the strip and back to the lodges as well as transporting employees to their jobs along the strip which reduces the pressure on Strip parking spaces. The bus route included seasonal employee housing nearby and residents of a senior living center in the area. The bus service saw dramatic increases in ridership during the two-year period and was supported with seed money in the form of one-time stipends from several local business owners.

Ultimately the concept of a parking garage drew interest and support as a long-term solution to peak demand shortages which the bus system could not solve. Potential funding mechanisms for the capital outlay of such a structure were discussed. The city budget, dependent on local sales taxes, could not afford such cost nor could it afford the debt service on a bond issue without a vote of the citizens increasing taxes.

One idea growing out of meetings with those in this group focused on a Transportation Development District. Gerry Murawski, Mayor of Lake Ozark but acting as a private citizen living within the city of Lake Ozark, along with others in the group, supported forming such a TDD as a means of continued operation of the bus system as well as construction and operation of the parking structure.

According to Murawski, the more critical need for road resurfacing would take precedence over parking shortages. Thus, any TDD approved now would be strictly for the road repair project. Future TDD monies could address the parking garage expense. Murawski added the current annual Lake Ozark street repair budget of $70,000, if spent for the Strip project, would expend the entire budgeted amount for more than 40 years, leaving no money for other streets. Furthermore, the Strip street repair being planned is expected to last only 20 years; thus, the repair would not be paid for before more repair is due.

“Previous city officials did nothing to plan for this issue during the life of the road surface, now it falls to this Board of Aldermen to solve it,” said Murawski.