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Camp Jack special-called meeting

Posted Date: 04/25/2024

Camp Jack special-called meeting

Two city council members, Mitch Magness and Larry Phillips, wanted to speak with Matt Russell about the Camp Jack Lease. For that conversation with two council members both present, they had to designate it a special called meeting after notifying the press. They met for about 36 minutes on April 18 at 12:30 p.m.

Larry Phillips, as chairman of the Internal Affairs Committee that oversees the lease said he was unclear about all of the facts.

Mitch Magness said, “I’ll jump in with some background. When we began working with you, I thought we had voted for a 50-year lease. I was confused when I found out the lease was for 10 years. I asked James White and other people to research this. We can’t find anything where a vote was recorded or a lease that came out of that meeting. There was subsequentially a lease for 10 years that we were all made aware of.”

Camp Jack President Matt Russell said, “It’s a little different from that. The ten-year lease was voted on and accepted. Then once we saw this money that we went out and got from Congressman Womack, plus other things … we saw that we needed to extend that lease so we could justify putting those dollars and efforts into a community center. After we had the ten-year lease, the council was verbally very supportive and said Absolutely.”

Russell continued, “Since then nothing has happened. Now that we are technically in the construction process I’ve gone out and raised additional funds to finish the work the current budget doesn’t cover. It’s hard to tell people we’ve only got a lifespan of five to six years on your money. Plus we want to secure a Veteran Community Center for the future. That’s why I’m back requesting that extension and a couple of other minor modifications.”

Magness asked about the paperwork Russell provided.

“That’s the original lease and the top page is the proposed changes that are being requested,” Russell said.

“In saying that, we are not here today regarding a negotiation. I can’t speak for the Council and the City. I’m just trying to find out what we know. And then make a recommendation to the City. I have held this up because I was adamant that we did this. But I was wrong. That’s all I can say,” Magness said.

Phillips said, “Matt, in committee last Thursday, there was some confusion. I didn’t feel like we knew all the facts. So that’s why I felt like it should be tabled.”

“I couldn’t find in any of my notes where we had the lease. I know we have a copy of your lease, but it’s not signed. There were a number of things I requested, but there wasn’t time to get it all together,” Magness said.

Magness continued, “You and I have met before, back in November. I believe. I don’t believe there is any group that is going to garner more support from the city and council than Camp Jack. I don’t believe we will ever let you down – with what we can do for you legally. There has been a lot of conservation within the discussion about other properties the city owns and whether we should personally own property. I personally think the city shouldn’t own property we aren’t using. But I consider Camp Jack different for two reasons. First, it is contiguous with the rest of the Creekside facilities. Secondly, the purpose for which it is being used. I would like to see us do something, but it needs to be done so we don’t make a mistake. We could have groups say we have to do it for them, too.”

“I envision something coming out of this that Camp Jack feels comfortable with,” Magness said. Magness also requested some additional information, such as board members’ names, square footage, and financial information.”

Russell said, “The Council has been incredibly supportive with Camp Jack all along. I understand the dilemma of other non-profits wanting the same thing. I would challenge them to show where they have returned to the community the amount of support, opportunities and benefits Camp Jack does. I know sometimes it’s a legal issue or it can be a political landmine that needs to be crossed. We are certainly willing to work with you on that and provide financials or anything else you want to see. If you look at the members of the city and county we have helped, it certainly warrants the effort put into Camp Jack.”

“The original lease with current conditions would probably be about $6,000. Part of that responsibility was to put that much back into the building each year. Between time and materials, we’ve put well over $200,000 into the building during the past three years. I think we are keeping that end of it. We are putting a lot of energy into this and want to make sure it goes into the future. You are very supportive, but we’ve no clue what a city council of the future might want to do. Even the original plan was to tear it down,” Russell said.

Magness said, “I don’t want to sound difficult. Besides Luke Feighert, I hold myself accountable for what we do with the funding. I want every citizen to feel comfortable with what we spend. There are times I’m not supportive of something, or I have a problem with it. Sometimes, I think something is a great idea and will be well-received by the taxpayers. I don’t want to do anything for Camp Jack at the expense of the General Fund.”

“Nor would we ask you to,” Russell said.

“Nor can it be the primary funding mechanism for Camp Jack,” Magness said. “But we committed originally to fixing the roof. As a Council, we are going to fix the roof. We will follow through.”

“We would not have gotten the grant without Camp Jack. And Camp Jack would not have gotten the grant without the city. Right?” Magness said.

“Well, the city owned the building, and that was their contribution. The city has been an advocate for Camp Jack,” Russell said. 

The men discussed their potential life spans. Magness said, “I plan on Camp Jack to be there for 30-60 years. As a council, we want to work toward that end, too. We just need to create the framework to make that happen. I want to make sure there is funding available and then aid with fundraisers. I will do anything I can to assist with Camp Jack.”

Without it being a time for negotiations, the men spoke casually about what they would like to see with the lease and plan to see what’s best for both parties.