City Councilman Mike Grimm explains his hesitancy to use taxpayer money to fund the Eagle’s Way Riverfront RV Park to its owners Dave Helsel and Kelly Horn. Credit: News-Press

The Eagle’s Way Riverfront RV Park could be a catalyst for Riverfront growth, but the St. Joseph (Mo.) council is hesitant to invest taxpayer money, according to the News-Press.

The owners, Dave Helsel, Alison Horn and Kelly Horn, have already purchased and cleared the land along Waterworks Road by the Missouri River — a total of about $400,000 — for the 77 RV spots, four pickleball courts and a 400-person event center.

But now they’re asking for $1.4 million of the city’s hotel and motel tax revenue — a fund that has to be used for Riverfront development. This money would go toward the private property’s infrastructure, like road rock, sewer system, an urban trail and asphalt parking areas, which concerns some of the councilmen.

“If you’re going to use hotel, motel tax money for infrastructure, and the business doesn’t work, it goes out of business, we can’t get that money back,” said City Councilman Mike Grimm. “It will belong to the bank or whoever the lender was. We’ve lost taxpayers’ money if we use it for infrastructure.”

To make sure the business is viable, the council asked the owners to conduct a feasibility study during a work session Monday.

“If we had a feasibility study from a third party, it would tell us whether an RV park out there would be feasible, how many spaces it could handle and what kind of cash flow it needs to work,” Grimm said.

Despite the council’s hesitancy, it realizes the need for an RV park in town. Marci Bennett, the executive director of the Visitors Bureau, also vocalized the need during the meeting by mentioning the 79% hotel occupancy rate.

“We don’t have places for people to stay,” she said. “They would love to stay in an RV park.”

The owners plan on investing about $2.6 million for park amenities, like the check-in store, event center, e-bikes and pickleball courts. They have also agreed to raise the flood level to 2 feet — the required amount that is expected to go into effect in 2023.

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