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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

County to look at adding electric meters for park renters

By Charlene Sims,

MOUND CITY – On the west side of the road directly north of the marina at Linn County Park is a row of recreational vehicles inhabited by campers who have been there so long they are essentially full-time residents.

Every so often, the Linn County Commission discusses whether that is detrimental to the park, and whether those campers should be forced to move out of those prime spots that are a short walk to La Cygne Lake.

At the commission’s meeting on Monday, Dec. 18, that discussion resurfaced with park Manager Sheri Loveland.

However, long-term renters weren’t the only topic covered, and commissioners discussed the proposed  increase in use fees for the park.

At the Dec. 11 meeting, Loveland proposed the following increases:

• Daily admission from $4 to $5 per day.

• Second car on a yearly pass from $7 to $10.

• Tent camping from $10 to $12 daily.

• Second tent on same site from $7 to $9 daily.

• Small shelter house by the marina from $40 to $50 per day.

• Large shelter house, Electric Loop, from $50 to $60 per day.

• Cabins from $50 to $60 per night.

• Pet fees from $25 to $35 per stay.

• Camping fees from $15-$19 per night to $16 to $20 per night.

At the end of the discussion on Dec. 18, the commissioners decided to wait on approving the fee increases until Loveland brought back more information about the costs of electricity on the areas where the full-time residents live. 

Commission Chair Danny McCullough asked Loveland if most of the full-time renters were on Marina Lane.

Loveland answered, “It is all full-time and the first four on Viewpoint are also long-term, but they don’t have sewer. “They tote their own sewer up to the dump site so they are $16 a day instead of $17 or $19.”

“This is my opinion, tell me if I am wrong,” McCullough said. “I feel like that Marina Lane should be short-term and it should be wide open and that’s where we should really be trying to make money. If I went camping in an RV, I would want to be next to the marina and the boat dock. Do people ever complain about that?”

Loveland said that one person has said they should open them up, but most people don’t say anything. Those sites are on a big steep hill and they are on a cove and when the area is not in a drought, there is water down there. However, much of time it is dry. 

The favorite sites are the ones near the water, said Loveland. 

McCullough asked how the other commissioners felt about having long-term there.

“Where would you want to move them, Danny?” asked Loveland. “Or would you want to get rid of them?”

“I don’t want to get rid of anybody, but I feel like those are the most sought after spots. I just see a bigger picture. It’s a really nice paved road right in front of it and we should charge a little more for those. 

Loveland said she didn’t know where those RV would move to except on the east side of the bath house on north main where the other sewer is. That’s up by the shower house, and a lot of the short-term campers like to shower up there.

“I guess its kind of a sticky subject,” said McCullough. “Was it three years ago when we talked about the situation with long-term rentals?”

Thompson said it was just before Loveland took over as manager.

“Was it ever our goal to just keep allowing this to happen?” asked McCullough.

Thompson said his understanding was that the county was going to phase it out as people left, and the county was not going to bring in new full-time people. 

Loveland said that was not correct. She said they just grandfathered in the ones that had been there longer. The grandfathered ones have extra privileges. They can have three vehicles instead of just two.


Public Works Director Shaun West, Loveland’s supervisor, said the other thing would be a consideration on Marina Lane is to understand that while they are more sought after, or could be, but also with the grandfathered-in, long-term or month-to-month renters there, they do have buildings and structures along with their campers. So when they talk about moving people, they are talking about moving more than just campers.

McCullough questioned why they had buildings on the site.

West said that they had to pay a fee to have sheds with their camper and they have to show what the purpose is and that it is agreed to before they bring in a shed.     

McCullough said that he felt like the county was not supposed to be a full-time trailer park there.

West said that when he started as manager at the park, there were almost 20 full-time residents and now the park is down to four grandfathered individuals and everyone else rents month to month.

They are probably not ever going to move when they are paying $6,000 a year to live on the property with all the utilities paid, said McCullough.

West said the other consideration was if the county used those as priority sites for short-term renters, would the county receive as much in rent. He said they probably would not be able to keep it full with seasonal campers. Now, it is consistently occupied 12 months out of the year.

McCullough said the county is competing with our local RV parks.

“We don’t allow people to live in campers anywhere else in the county,” state McCullough.

Thompson said that people could live in their campers in the lake communities if they have a designated area for full-time camper living. Some of them do and some of them don’t.

“It’s not my goal to try to put people out of a place to live but we’re not…. how do you guys feel?” asked McCullough.

Commissioner Jason Hightower said he would be concerned about forcing out the county’s year-round renters and what that would do to the cash flow there.

“I’d say there would be days you would not have them rented if you took them out,”said Commissioner Jim Johnson. “Who pays the taxes on the buildings there?”

West said that once a year the park sends a report to the appraiser’s office about any decks and other buildings, and the appraiser is very proficient at taxing the personal property.

“Do we have anyway of knowing what electricity they actually use in that loop?” asked Johnson. “Do we know what that area actually costs us compared to what we are getting out of it?”

Loveland said she would get the commissioners numbers on Marina Lane.

“We could just look at the electric bill for the full year,” said Johnson.

Loveland said the county’s other option is something that she has suggested previously, but it never went anywhere. That was to have meters placed on each site and have them pay their own.

McCullough asked why with recent increases in fees the park prices were not as much as surrounding facilities.

Loveland explained that while the prices are lower, she had been working on raising them slowly over the past five years.

She said that West had agreed that they should not gouge the people with a sudden jump in rates.

Loveland told McCullough that the amenities that the Linn County Park has are not comparable to other facilities in the area. She explained that some sites have sewer, some do not, and very few have 50-amp electrical service compared to others in the area.

Loveland said the best bet down the road is to improve electrical service and she is trying to head that way. She said bought six new pedestals for electrical service and plans to charge the same rate except for the ones without sewer, unless the county wanted to expand the sewer. 

She told the commissioners that the Electric Loop area, the sites and the shelter house by the old swimming pool area, only had 30 amp service. She said that her only question or suggestion what does the county wanted to do? Did they want to put another 50 amp site in the Horseshoe area or one in the Lily Pad area? Even if they do, they do not have sewer.

Loveland said the difference in the prices from $15 to $19 depended on what they have besides electricity. Electric Loop currently is $15 a night because it is electric only and they do not have any water. Some of the ones with 30 amp have water. 

Hightower clarified whether salaries were in the park budget report. County Clerk David Lamb said the salaries were in their under contractual and the benefits were taken from the county’s employees’ benefit fund.

We raise enough money to pay all the expenses in the park and our salary,” said Loveland.

McCullough said he would like to see some goals for the park, like curbs off of the paved area. He said just wanted to see development there and pointed out that the county was working on doing the boat docks, the sewer lagoon and a swimming area.

Loveland asked if the county was really wanting to spend that money for those improvements.

McCullough asked Loveland to talk about the cabins.

The cabins do have electricity, water and sewer but no wifi or television. Six of the seven cabins require that people bring their own linens and supplies. The seventh cabin is listed on Airbnb. 

Loveland said the goal this winter was to paint the cabins while they are not occupied. She said that there is not adequate staff to do Airbnb, because the Airbnb cabin requires more housekeeping because the park provides linens, towels and other supplies.

To do the laundry for this cabin, Loveland or the part-time housekeeper have to drive it a mile and a half up the road to the workshop. To wash and dry the linens can take up to three hours.

She said in the summer, she definitely does not have the staff to do this. She suggested that if the county increase staff and build a laundry near the cabins, more cabins could be added to Airbnb.

She said originally she wanted the washer and dryer in the marina so that laundry could be done while they were working in the marina. However, that did not work out because there were too many wires in the wall to put in a dryer vent according to Chris Martin, the county’s information technology director. 

Loveland told the commissioners that because of the way the cabins are set up with the beds right next to the walls, workers cannot walk around the bed to make it. Instead of crawling across the beds to make them, workers have started to pull the mattresses off and make them and then put them back on the beds. 

In a later conversation with West, he explained that the beds were actually platforms attached to the walls making it impossible to walk around the bed.

West also said that the wifi and television that the commissioners had approved installing in the cabins a year ago had not been completed because the county’s bucket truck had been broken down.

Hightower asked how Loveland felt about increasing the rates for holiday weekends and special events like Dancefestopia. Loveland said that she was for it, and that’s why she had recommended increasing the cabin rates then. She said it would be nice to increase the camping fees at those times, but it would probably be a hassle because the VenTek kiosk would have to be changed by the company and then changed back again. 

McCullough, who once owned cabins that he rented through Airbnb, questioned why more cabins were not listed on that platform or social media. 

She said they could try to do a couple more cabins, but in reality don’t they make more money from that cabin. Looking at the park’s financial report, the Airbnb cabin has had an income of $4,320 the past year while the other six cabins’ income was more than $51,500, or an average of nearly $8,600 per cabin.

She also said she would need another part-time housekeeper because the present one can only work Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

McCullough said he thought they could make a lot more money by putting more cabins on Airbnb but Loveland pointed out that another housekeeper would have to be hired. Hightower agreed.

McCullough brought up the new swimming area that the county would be building. 

Loveland pointed out that the park used to be a lot busier when the swimming pool was there. She questioned whether swimming in the lake was as attractive to some people as the pool.

McCullough asked about the liability of having horseback riding at the park. County Counselor Gary Thompson said unless the county was negligent somehow, the county would not be liable. He said that is was a public park and the county had a certain amount of freedom from liability.

Loveland will look at purchasing signs about the park not being responsible for horseback riding accidents.

McCullough asked if the horse people were bringing in enough money to the park for the county to cater to them like that.

Loveland said that the park is not really catering to them. They go down to the horse park for parking and that is all there is to it.

Hightower pointed out that the county did not clean out the trails; people involved with the horse riders did that.

McCullough said that he thought side-by-sides should be allowed on paths at the park.

Loveland said that had been brought up when the contract was being negotiated with Evergy the last time, and company representatives were against side-by-sides. But they have now agreed to letting the county build a swimming area.

West said that it had been worked out that side-by-sides could be used on the roads so that people could drive them on paved roads to the marina andother campsites but not on paths.

McCullough said he did not agree with not allowing side-by-sides on the paths. He said originally power plant officials had told them they could not have a swimming area but now they could have a swimming area.

“If I have to reach out to somebody at Evergy, then I will I guess. Why can’t we do this, why can’t we try to make money out there with this 2,000 acres we aren’t using?” asked McCullough.

Other discussion included the caretaker’s house at the park that the county had decided to demolish rather than remodel so that it could be rented. Last year the county made $9,000 rent off of that house, Loveland pointed out. 

The commissioners asked for bids on remodeling the house in May and the bid received was $163,570. The money for the renovation would come out of the windfall and contingency funds.

Commissioners then asked West to get figures on the income the house could bring in and the cost to demolish it.

With concerns about the cost of the bid, that the county did not own the land the house was on, and lack of projections about what rental fees would bring to the county, the commissioners decided to have West look into what the costs were for demolition of the house.

However, that was placed on hold after county Fire Chief Randy Hegwald asked to use the structure for firefighter training.

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