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Lamar Bypass Offers Financial Concerns for City, County

City of Lamar 2013

 

The Lamar City Council devoted its work session this past Monday, June 10, to the pros or cons of creating a non-scientific City of Lamar website survey which could provide some local comments from concerned citizens about the project.  The city was told by CDOT that the Highway 50/287 bypass, or Reliever Route as it’s now termed, has become a priority project.  The council decided against adding an APP on the website, pending a clearer view of its financial responsibility to the by-pass construction costs.  Although some funding is available, neither Lamar, nor the county has received any indication of where the city stands in a group of about 140 highway improvement projects, statewide.  Although there has been continued coffee cup conversation about the benefits and negatives a bypass would have on the community’s economy, the infrastructure cost to the community needs to be factored into any future decision.  CDOT has generalized an outline to the city which would have Main Street ownership and maintenance costs transferred to Lamar from the state in lieu of some of Lamar’s financial contribution to the bypass project.  The City of Lamar would be responsible for all future repairs and upgrades.  Also in doubt is which entity would be responsible for bringing the roadway up to par before the transfer, a cost estimated at around $5 million by Pat Mason, City Public Works director.  He said that is an estimate of repairs and curb and gutter work between Savage Avenue and Pizza Hut.  The bypass would lessen the impact of 3,000 semis a day on the street, reducing the need for repairs, but the city would still be responsible for any repairs and maintenance. 

With the pending retirement of Bobby Ward as the city’s Chief Building Inspector on August 17, 2013, the city has amended the job description regarding scope and range of duties and increases the position’s responsibility and raises the minimum qualifications for the position.  Administrator John Sutherland explained that the position will have a larger role in leading the long-term planning and community development efforts of the city. The council approved a resolution transferring recently received funding for $6,000 for the Lamar Library and $6,000 for the Main Street Program.  The budget was amended to reflect the additional funds.  The Planning and Zoning Commission held an earlier public hearing to rezone property at 509 and 511 North 6th Street from R-2 residential to C-2 commercial to include a plumbing business connected to a residence.  The city council approved the ordinance. 

With just weeks away from the calendar start of summer, highs in the 100s have already been noted in southeast Colorado.  The city is now at Stage 2 water restrictions under the recommendation of Josh Cichocki, City Water/Wastewater director.  “We don’t need to think about Stage 3 at this point,” he told the council on Monday.  “Since we’ve been getting some water from the Fort Bent Ditch, our north well fields are coming up by about two feet and that’s helping the wells recharge,” he added.  Cichocki said he’s received about 39 requests for special use on the restrictions, up from 26 the last time he reported to the council.  “Those are made because of some financial and physical restraints some residents are working under,” he explained.  The director said the city used 74.5 million gallons for May 2012, compared to 64.5 million this past month, an indication that the conservations efforts are working.  “We’re seeing a savings of about one acre foot per day difference,” he added, and mentioned that he’s still working to get the city’s project water released which will put us in even better shape.  Some residents have mentioned that their water appears to be cloudy when running out of their taps.  “There are no health issues with that condition, it’s air in the water,” he said.  He suggested that the condition can be cleared up if the water runs for about five minutes, but if it doesn’t, a resident can call him and the lines can be flushed to correct the situation.  The council also approved the appointment of Cichocki as the city’s representative on the Arkansas River Basin Roundtable.  This seat is a voting position and has been vacant for some time. 

In a record keeping move, the city council officially adopted a resolution of support to lobby federal and state governments to find a solution to the need for upgraded railroad tracks owned by BNSF. Amtrak uses the lines, but because of the poor quality of the tracks, must operate at slower speeds to the point that some trip time has been lengthened by 14 hours.  BNSF wants Amtrak to pay for the improvements.  Amtrak is considering re-routing passenger service to eliminate the Southwest Chief train route out of southwest Kansas, southeast Colorado and northern New Mexico.  For the past two years, the city has contributed $10,000 to a financial pool with other impacted cities, to secure lobbyists to seek federal funding for railroad improvements.

The council ratified a recent proclamation declaring June 5, 2013 as juniper Village at Lamar Day.  Lamar Mayor pro-tem, Skip Ruedeman attended the open house for the event highlighting Juniper Village’s 25th anniversary in Lamar and read the proclamation at that time.  The council approved the Fire and Ambulance services to sign a five year contract with Gobins, Inc. for a photocopier for $66.42 a month.  The city entered into an agreement for services from Southeast Wellness Works for any employee in need of assistance regarding personal or substance problems.  Southeast Wellness Works is located on South Main Street and offers counseling sessions.  As explained by the city’s Human Resources Director, Bert Davis, the city offers an Employee Assistance Program in its manual and this agreement will provide for that offer.  The cost is $500 for 16 sessions and can be negotiated if there is a growing need.  The city authorized an annual agreement with the Prowers County Clerk and Recorder to participate in the November Coordinated Election.  Council member seats held by Keith Nidey, Kirk Crespin, Oscar Riley and Roger Stagner will be up for re-election this November. 

Pat Mason, Public Works Director, briefed the council on the cost of sidewalk repairs that were done two weeks ago along the 100 North Main Street block.  A person had tripped and injured themselves over an uneven portion of the sidewalk and city crews were directed by the council to make the appropriate repairs.  The store owner provided the materials and the city provided equipment and labor for a cost of $1,458.  A tree root caused the sidewalk to crack and the tree had to be removed to correct the sidewalk problem.  Mason said there are other problem areas along the downtown sidewalks and he and Councilman Skip Ruedeman will do an assessment of other areas that could become a liability. 

Administrator Sutherland reminded the council about a number of calendar events including Flag Day ceremonies held by the Lamar Elks Lodge, Friday, June 14, at 6:30pm at Centennial Park, the LiveWell Prowers County Family Fun Day is set for all day Saturday, June 22 from 9am to 11pm at Willow Creek Park, a future-use-of-Colorado-prisons discussion for the public will be held this Tuesday, June 11, at 3:15pm in Las Animas, and the marijuana prohibition ordinance was passed on second reading on the council’s consent agenda.

By Russ Baldwin

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