Supervisors approve funding for lake cabins

Oct. 25—Union County Board of Supervisors are in favor of having another place tourists, or county residents, can stay for a while.

Monday, the board unanimously approved dedicating $720,000 of the county's remaining American Rescue Plan funds for two housekeeping cabins at Three Mile Lake.

"That's a lot of money," said Supervisor Chairman Dennis Brown who attended the meeting via telephone. "But I don't know how we would afford this."

Last week Union County Conservation Director Doug Jones presented the proposal to build two housekeeping cabins at Three Mile Lake. The cabins can hold multiple people with individual bedrooms, bathrooms, heating, air conditioning and be open year round. Estimated total cost for both of them is $720,000. Jones also estimated they would not be ready to use until 2024. He was not at Monday's meeting.

Union County initially received $2.37 million in funds between two $1.18 million payments. The federal government provided the money for government entities to use to make up for lost revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic. Supervisors have dedicated nearly all of the first payment. The county has about $363,000 left to spend.

Jones had made a similar presentation last year when the federal government funded Union County about $2.3 million. During that presentation, Jones emphasized new electrical infrastructure and other amenities at existing campground sites.

"These would offer a lot more amenities, more area and don't have to go outside to use restroom," Jones said last week about the cabins. The design he explained is used in Scott County.

Jones said a possible location is the campground at Three Mile Lake using existing infrastructure to get to them. That's only one location option.

"We could consider putting them on the hill, line up with the ones we have there. Everybody wants to be down by the water. Get the cottage, get the lake, close access. Walk down to the shore line and fish and have your own private dock. That's the way we'd like to do them," he said last week.

Jones used Lake Icaria's cabins in Adams County as a comparable facility.

Lake Icaria has a 10-person cottage which he called "pretty impressive."

Jones said all lodging revenue at Three Mile Lake averages $160,000 a year. The amount jumped to $230,000 during the pandemic as it forced people to do more outdoor, recreation activities.

Jones said cabin usage is almost the same after the pandemic and noted Lake Icaria also has kept its popularity.

"They look a lot like us. They are really big into this cabin business. Icaria has six housekeeping, full-service bathrooms, what we want to do," he said.

Jones said the demographic of people who use the cabin for a week is not the same person who stays for a day or two. He has been told some weeklong visitors have held weddings at the parks.

"It's a no brainer," Supervisor Ron Riley said about the proposal. "It's a good request that will bring in revenue in the county."

Supervisor Rick Friday said the benefits of the cabins will be seen long term and referred to a quote from investor Warren Buffett. "Some set in the shade because someone planted a tree," Friday said.

In other Three Mile camping improvements, there will be new electric pedestals with 50, 30 and 20 amp offerings. The electrical pedestals will be at each camp site, rather than every other. Ten existing camp sites will have sewer and water access.

Work should be complete in January.