Stacy Long waited for more than four hours Jan. 23 to air her concerns about Smithville Lake dock renewals. She returned to the county commission a week later only to be learn that officials had been advised not to comment.
Long told commissioners she was still waiting for someone to explain why her family’s attempts to renew a slip rental, both by phone and in person, had been unsuccessful. Long said she and her husband learned the county rented the slip to another boat owner.
“I have not received an email or anything from anyone in the county,” Long said at the Jan. 30 meeting. “I’ve gotten no response from the commissioners or my county officers.”
Presiding Commissioner Jerry Nolte referred her concerns to County Administrator Dean Brookshier, who said the county attorney had advised him not to respond.
County Counselor Kevin Graham, seated next to Brookshier, said a threat of litigation had prompted his suggestion.
“It was my advice that we not talk about something that could be the subject of litigation,” he said.
The previous week, Long told the board that a representative of the county called her husband on Jan. 9 to renew the family’s contract. The employee said payments were no longer being accepted over the phone, but said Jacob Long could “come in anytime to pay and sign the contract,” Stacy Long said.
“My husband was out of town at the time, but I would have been able to go to the marina (at Smithville Lake) had they asked us to pay in person that day,” said Long, who is a nurse at Children’s Medical Center.
The Longs’ contract had a Jan. 12 expiration date.
When he returned, “My husband went to the marina Jan. 21 and 22 to speak with management and try to pay, but was refused,” Long said.
That prompted Stacy Long to make her first visit to the commission, waiting hours with her three young children before speaking toward the end of the lengthy meeting.
She said other businesses with something to rent would not treat their customers the way her family was treated.
“I’m still looking for an answer,” she said Jan. 30.
The Longs’ boat is still docked at Smithville Lake until it can be relocated to a different slip.
Long said she interpreted the county counselor’s comment about the “threat of litigation” to mean the issue could only be resolved by lawyers.
“From what I understand, I’m being told to hire a private attorney and to speak to you through an attorney,” she said.
Graham, the county attorney, suggested that Long first speak with the county administrator privately and attempt to settle the issue amicably. She approached Brookshier after the Jan. 30 meeting and was told to contact him by email.
Long said she and her husband emailed Brookshier the next day, requesting notification that he’d received it, but heard nothing that day.
Terri Welk, also a Smithville boat owner and slip holder, said Long’s experience with the county sounded familiar.
“I’m hopeful that she will get a better response than I have, but I’m not getting a warm fuzzy about that happening,” said Welk, who has had her own issues with the county. “The public does not have the ability to have its concerns addressed, and I think people should keep that in mind when there’s another election.”
Nolte, the presiding commissioner, said he, too, had been advised to avoid on-the-record comments about the slip-rental issue, but he did apologize publicly for Long having to wait so long the previous week to address the commission.
“Certainly, we need to hear what members of the public have to say,” he said.