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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Commission discusses ways to make park more profitable

Updated: Jun 15

By Charlene Sims,

MOUND CITY – In the midst of Public Works Administrator Shaun West was being grilled about the roads during the Linn County Commission meeting on Monday, June 3, Commissioner Danny McCullough changed the subject to projects he wanted done at the Linn County Park.

McCullough said that the park should be making more money than it is. The budget for the Linn County Park cycles seasonally from very low income in the winter months to making up for those deficits during the summer months when attendance is at its peak. 

This year, though, summer attendance may not be able to bring the park budget back into the black because its sewage lagoon had to be dredged, desludged and repaired this year at a cost of more than $130,000. As far as anyone knows, the lagoon had never been cleaned out since it was put in many years ago.                                                                                                                                                                                                           

McCullough pointed out the mismanagement over the years of not budgeting for this inevitable repair and said that the commission needed to plan better, especially during budget time. There was no funding put back to cover the costs.

McCullough has been on the commission since April 2019.

He started quizzing West about different reservation systems for the park, the option of putting up a gate to make sure everyone was paying to go into the park, adding a swimming area, and subleasing the marina to a private company.

West has been researching the reservation system for several months and working with the Linn County Information Technology Director Chris Martin to see what would work with current VenTek system that the county purchased for $25,000 several years ago. West and Linn County Park Manager Sheri Loveland have added one cabin on the Airbnb reservation platform, but it has not brought in as much revenue as the other cabins.

McCullough said, “I’ve been talking about this for three months. Right now is the prime time to be camping and we’re missing a lot of opportunities, in my opinion.”                                                                                                                                                

McCullough wants the park reservation system online so people from out of town can reserve ahead of time and he has been pushing to put the cabins on Airbnb. 

McCullough said that if a person wants to book a Friday and Saturday night, that person has to go to the VenTek kiosk at the park and book Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday to get Friday and Saturday.

West agreed that a visitor had to start his or her reservation the day that he or she was at the VenTek kiosk at the park, and they cannot pick a date in the future.

McCullough clarified that if you lived in Overland Park and wanted to make sure that you got reservations for Friday and Saturday you needed to come down on Tuesday and book it from Tuesday on.

West told McCullough that was correct.

McCullough said that changing that process was something that needed to be moved on quickly. 

McCullough also brought up using the building at the park entrance for sales of permits and putting up a gate so that people could not go in without having paid. 

Commissioner Jim Johnson said he thought the gate might be a huge cost.

Jumping to his next idea, McCullough asked if anyone had thought of leasing out the marina sales to a person or a company. 

West said that he did not think that option had ever come up. He said he could see several issues with that since other parts of the park business run out of there, including rentals and hunting and fishing licenses. He said computer and communication lines would have to be moved to the other building.

Then, McCullough asked what the progress was on the swimming area. 

Commissioner Jason Hightower said that the county would have to spend approximately $50,000 to have the engineering done for the swimming area. The commissioners had agreed earlier in the year to have request for proposal (RFP) sent out for the engineering.

“Can’t we put up a ‘swim at your own risk’ sign?” asked McCullough. “Who told you to get an engineering report?”

West explained that was part of the agreement with Evergy in the new contract the county signed. He said that Evergy requested that an engineering study and plan be done to prevent erosion and for safety. The contract also stated that Kansas Wildlife and Parks approve the plan for the swimming area as well. 

McCullough asked if the park didn’t lose a lot of money when people just drove in and did their thing without paying. McCullough asked how the county policed for people who were early risers and came in late. Do they get free access to the restroom and shower area?

West said that park employees watch for vehicles that do not have a pass on their dash.

“So we take them (the employees) off of their tasks they are doing and interrupt them with all that stuff?” asked McCullough.

West said that they didn’t really go off their tasks but they just looked at the vehicles while they are mowing and driving around and providing other services. West said the biggest problem they would have would be during bass tournaments and those are all right there at the marina.

Hightower suggested that the commission look at other municipalities with lakes to see how they handled the above issues. 

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