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Neglect Alleged by Camp Branch Marina Slipholders


Clay County resident Don Milum stepped to the podium during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s Clay County Commission meeting. His comments started off with an empathetic acknowledgement of how difficult it can be to serve on a public board, but what he had to say soon took on a more serious overtone.

Milum told the Commission he was there to “represent hundreds if not thousands of people of Clay County” and “redirect your attention to an area that I feel needs some immediate attention.”

That area?

The docks at Camp Branch Marina.

The docks experienced damage from recent storms, but Milum and others contend that the damage may have been more a result of ongoing failures to properly maintenance the boat docks.

“There certainly was some rain and light wind. I would say that the evidence suggests that there was something else at play here. When you look through this material [packets that had been prepared and presented to the county commission] it becomes very clear that we have a lack of oversight.”

During the floods from last year, high water caused mooring cables on D-dock to snap. Milum contends that they were never replaced and this left D-dock unrestrained. The recent weather caused the unrestrained dock to damage C-dock. Milum told the commission that there were numerous additional safety issues across all docks at the marina.

Milum began to take the commission through his prepared packet (large portion available below in slideshow) that included photos of numerous issues he felt needs attended to including the cable restraint systems on the docks, exposed rebar and hardware on D-dock, barriers that remain from the winter that should have been removed, chunks of concrete on walkways, a damaged courtesy slip, and unsafe holes in walkways.

One of the more shocking claims was that Milum had witnessed an elderly gentleman trip and fall into the lake.

“I will tell you this. I’m not speaking hypothetically. I was moored to this dock [courtesy slip] Saturday night awaiting my family and guests at 8:30 PM because they can’t access my walkway. I witnessed a retired gentleman trip and fall into the lake. Pitch dark. He did not have the strength and dexterity to pull himself up out of the water. Thank God I was standing there to grab him by the shoulders and pull him to safety.”

You can look at his full presentation below:

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Stating that he was a solutions oriented person (video is anchored at this point below for easy viewing), Milum did offer numerous suggestions on how to fix some of the problems. He even went as far to offer to help the County pay for solutions and provide volunteer support.

“You need the walkways temporarily fixed. You have a whole bunch of people on these docks. They’re degreed structural engineers, degreed mechanical engineers, they’re aerospace engineers, they’re business owners, they’re finance leaders, they’re public servants. All types of resources. We’re not being asked to help.”

Commissioner Ridgeway spoke briefly after Milum spoke. It was consensus of the Commission to ask County Administrator Dean Brookshier to address the concerns that had been brought forth.

Cory Booth was next to the microphone. He handed out a list of questions that he stated he’d made numerous attempts to get answered in the last couple of weeks. Booth was visibly frustrated with the situation.

“Can you guys name anything in the last five years that was a major investment into the marinas at Smithville Lake?”

Booth went on to list numerous concerns with Camp Branch. Discussing some of the similar issues that Milum mentioned, Booth said that his daughter had even fallen through one of the broken concrete plates at the docks. He added additional frustrations about fluctuating dock fees, lack of wi-fi, him and others having to fix problems on their own, and a lack of dock carts for boaters to use to take things down to their boats.

Booth echoed Milum’s comments about this being larger than just storm damage.

“We know a freak storm came through. Freak storms cause freak things to happen. I’m here to tell you that I don’t think it’s a storm that caused all that damage. It’s negligence. Lack of care. Lack of concern. The most I’ve seen the county do is replace a light bulb. There’s no one down there taking care of those docks.”

Booth closed by bringing up the recent news about the lawsuit over the mailers that Commissioner Ridgeway and Commissioner Owen had sent out.

“I’ve heard you’ve all been mailing out a lot of letters to folks. Free passes to Jesse James Farm. I never got one. Let me ask you a question. How come you didn’t mail anything out to us….How about, Dear D-dock slip holder. We’re very sorry the storm damage occurred. Rest assured we at the county are doing everything possible to get this fixed quickly.”

Commissioner Ridgeway stated she did get Mr. Booth’s email, but didn’t respond because it mentioned liability issues and wanted to speak with legal Counsel before she responded.

Terri Welk was next to the microphone. Welk and her husband spoke at the commission back in January about concerns with Sailboat Cove.

Pointing at the group of Camp Branch slip holders that had attended the meeting, “I’m not happy that these guys had to come today, but I am happy to see that there are other people that had so many of the same concerns.”

Welk is concerned that the fees the boaters give to the county are not being well utilized. She told the commission that she hopes that more boaters come forward with more concerns.

“It’s high time that the county actually provides a little more service for the people that are paying everyday.”

The following photos were posted on our Facebook page today. It does appear that some work has already been started at Camp Branch Marina on the concerns that were brought forward.

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About Andrew Palmer