The Jackson County supervisors tabled any action on the campground and cabin project at Prairie Creek Recreation Area while they waited for additional information regarding expenses.
Jackson County Conservation is asking the county to back up a loan to pay for improvements by using the county’s general fund as the equivalent of a co-signer. County conservation director Daryl Parker projects that revenues from the campground and cabins would easily repay the loan without using existing general fund monies.
Part of the decision to table was based on confusion over the timeframe in which the public could raise a petition that would bring the issue to a referendum.
The petition would bring the loan issue to a public vote. If a petition is signed by 10 percent of the number of voters in the last election, it would force supervisors to schedule a vote or abandon the project.
To force a vote, the petition would require 871 number of signatures.
The 30-day timeframe for a petition started ticking Nov. 6, the date the supervisors conducted a public hearing on the issue.
Parker did bring estimates of expected ongoing expenses for the new Prairie Creek development to the supervisors Nov. 27. He estimated that revenues of about $208,000 would cover ongoing expenses of about $70,000 and a loan payment of about $130,000, meaning the campground would do a little better than break even in the 20 years it would take to pay back a loan. After that, the campground and cabins would be a money-maker for the county.
“In my 28 years, I have never had as many calls as I’ve had this week,” said Supervisor Jack Willey. “They are absolutely dead-set against us backing that loan, and they were very vocal about it.”
Supervisor Larry McDevitt also sits on the Jackson County Conservation Board.
“I’ve heard a lot more for than against,” he said.
Supervisors questioned some of the costs estimated in the proposal, such as cabin building costs of $150,000 each. Conservation already significantly brought down the $2.5 million project cost from the $4.5 million originally estimated by Shive-Hattery, the architecture and engineering firm hired to assist with the project.
The Prairie Creek campground proposal comes after a failed bond referendum for a new jail and in the midst of high-dollar school and hospital building efforts. Some of the conversations around the campground echo those regarding other county projects.
“I think a lot of homework needs to be done yet in looking at costs,” Willey said, adding that he thought the park would be a great asset to the area.
Prairie Creek already includes five miles of hiking trails, a fishing pond and a pavilion.
Conservation plans to further develop the site, adding some 50 campsites with electrical hookups and 20 primitive campsites, as well as a handful of cabins at the site. The project is estimated to cost about $2 million.