It was standing-room-only at the Nov. 14 Four Seasons Lakesites Property Owners Association town hall meeting called by the POA to discuss its recent decision to stop funding the Camden County Sheriff’s Office. For the past 11 years, the sheriff’s office has been providing enhanced services to properties within the POA boundaries on both Horseshoe Bend and in Porto Cima, a development on Shawnee Bend.
At the start of the meeting, Mary Bustin, president of the POA Board of Directors, told those in attendance that the POA board decided to make the change because with the growth they are experiencing they need additional people to enforce restrictive covenants which prohibit residents from, among other things, failing to keep their grass cut to POA standards, failing to erect and maintain a trash enclosure and leaving a recycling can out for more than two days after pickup.
However, after more than an hour of yelling, booing and discussion between Bustin and the estimated 250 people who attended, she agreed to call a meeting between the POA board, the Village trustees and representatives from the sheriff’s office to discuss a compromise that could allow the POA to continue funding some of the expense of keeping deputies dedicated to the area. The POA currently pays $144,340.86 annually. The Village of Four Seasons, a municipality centered on Horseshoe Bend, currently pays $82,000 annually and provides a zone office in the lower-level of Village Hall.
The Village of Four Seasons and the Four Seasons POA are two seperate legal entities. The Village is an incorporated community on Horseshoe Bend and does not share the same boundaries as the Four Seasons POA which has its own set of rules and regulations.
Residents have another chance to voice their opinions at the next POA board meeting set for 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 20, at the Community Center on Horseshoe Bend Parkway.
In an earlier interview, Camden County Sheriff Tony Helms said that between salary, benefits, a vehicle, gas, service weapons and equipment, his office spends approximately $56,000 per year per deputy. Under the current agreement, seven or eight deputies are assigned to the Horseshoe Bend/Porto Cima zone.
At the town hall meeting, Bustin said the POA did not contract with the sheriff’s office to provide law enforcement, but rather to patrol and check things like street lights, which she said they no longer have time to do.
Michael McDorman said the Four Seasons Lakesites Property Owners Association contracted to provide services to both Porto Cima as well as Horseshoe Bend, but he added, “Those services were not to provide security, but instead for enhanced services that we provide the property owners – and that’s covenant enforcement. On the Horseshoe Bend side that’s also because you don’t have central sewer like we have in Porto Cima. Almost everybody has septic systems. And they’re checking systems by the red and green lights to make sure they’re still operational and functional, and they did provide that service. Also, originally they were to tell us if any of the streetlights were out so we would know that. So that was the purpose and it always has been the purpose of the Camden County Sheriff’s Office… So recognizing we have an obligation to all the property owners within Four Seasons – both Porto Cima and Horseshoe Bend – the board made the decision that the services that were being provided could probably just as easily be provided by contracting with a private entity. So that’s where we reached that decision.”
However, according to Article 1 of the “Agreement For Law Enforcement Services Between the Four Seasons Lakesites Property Owners Association, Inc. and The Camden County Sheriff’s Office for the 2023 Security Year” (posted in its entirety online at lakenewsonline.com):
“The Sheriff shall provide additional Law Enforcement Services for POA’s property owners, homes, and other establishments in the POA, including but not limited to, answering calls set forth in Exhibit A attached hereto and made a part hereof. Such Law Enforcement Services shall be conducted by commissioned regular and reserve deputies. The Sheriff shall furnish all provided services and protection contemplated under the terms of this Agreement.
“The Sheriff shall have complete and sole authority and discretion with respect to the administration and delivery of the Law Enforcement Services contemplated herein, the standard of performance of all deputy sheriffs, and other such matters incident to the performance of this agreement.
“The Sheriff shall provide the POA with the required accountability reports, a summary of which are set forth in Exhibit B, attached hereto and made a part hereof.
“The Sheriff shall assign duly appointed, sworn and acting deputy sheriffs or reserve deputy Sheriffs of Camden County, Missouri (the (“Law Enforcement Personnel”) to perform the Law Enforcement Service and the Law Enforcement Personnel shall have all training required by state and local laws necessary to perform the Law Enforcement Services contemplated within the scope of this Agreement.”
Scope and Services
The list of “Scope and Services” also includes, among other tasks, checking amenities – pools, campground, Community Center – daily, performing residence checks, providing traffic control on the Parkway during peak holiday travel hours and reporting wastewater light and streetlight outages.
At the meeting, Bustin also complained that deputies did not track things like calls for service and miles driven separately for the POA and the Village. However, in an earlier interview, Sheriff Helms said it would be impossible to split the numbers because the majority of the Village is in the POA boundaries, which also include unincorporated areas of Camden County. Helms was not allowed to attend the Nov. 14 town hall meeting because he is not a resident of the POA.
Bustin also faulted the sheriff’s office for how it took calls for service. She said the original contract called for a direct line to the zone office on Horseshoe Bend. She said that since that was discontinued, it’s more difficult to reach deputies because they have to call the main office in Camdenton, “And that’s a decision that they made based on their job to try to keep track of calls. That’s not something we had any say over.”
The direct number to the zone office was discontinued several years ago because the calls were being forwarded to the county control center when deputies were on the road. Sheriff Helms said in emergencies, calls to 911, rather than the zone office, allow them to provide a better response time.
“Very few people call us because they want to say ‘hi.’ They call us because they have a problem. When they call 911, the dispatcher can immediately summon additional help – fire department, an ambulance. That was done only to provide better service – not worse,” the sheriff said.
In October, the POA and the Village – as well as the rest of Camden County – got an even bigger bang for their buck when the county implemented a Rapid SOS system that allows dispatchers to pinpoint the exact location of the caller, which is helpful to visitors or newcomers who aren’t familiar to the area. The system also allows individuals to text 911 for help and send videos of crimes they witnessed.
Tony Baldridge, chairman of the Village Board of Trustees, said regardless of what is decided by the POA, the Village will continue paying its portion to keep additional deputies on the Bend, adding, “We are very pleased with our deputies. We couldn’t ask for better service.”
The Village of Four Seasons began contracting with the sheriff’s office in 1996. Deputy salaries and equipment were initially covered under a grant, awarded after Camden County Reserve Deputy Fred Feuser and POA Security Officer Bill Janssen were shot and killed by two teenagers caught stealing a boat. When the grant money ran out, Village trustees voted to continue paying salaries to keep deputies on Horseshoe Bend ful-time rather than sharing them with the rest of the county. A few years later the POA decided to do away with private security and contract with the sheriff’s office.