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Lamar Council Gets Financial Status Report

 

 

City Administrator, John Sutherland, provides periodic financial updates for the council during their bi-monthly meeting schedule and said that despite some lower numbers for the City Sales Tax Revenue, overall expenses are below budget so far this year.

The May summery sheet outlined some of the more prominent financial features for the city and according to Sutherland, one area of note was the downturn in attorney fees which, “Has made a huge difference and makes me feel better,” he stated. That financial hiatus may be short lived as the city’s lawsuit against ARPA, Arkansas River Power Authority, also listed as Case 31, may resume in a couple of weeks.  Both parties have until July 14th, 2017 to reach an agreed-upon settlement in the case.  However, with two ARPA members, La Junta and Trinidad, declining to vote in favor of the settlement, the case may go back to trial.  A new court date could be set by October.

Administrator Sutherland noted that revenues have ‘squeaked up’ above budget for the first time due in part to the first payment of property taxes to the city with another payment pending later in the year. Expenses are also below budget for this time and are at 35% of budget with almost 42% of the year now past.  He said it’s worth noting that the sanitation fund is at 41% in operating revenue which is lower than had been budgeted, but operating expenses are going to be high due to two large repair bills for equipment.  One is a torque converter and another is a trash compactor, both needed to continue landfill operations.  Sutherland explained that they won’t be ‘cheap fixes’.

He said the ambulance fund is healthy and worth taking note of that change. “The revenue budget is huge.  What a difference having a professional biller has made for that operation.”  He added that revenue is consistent and expenses, which are at 42%, is also under budget.  He mentioned two downtown developments of note.  The Alamo Hotel at the corner of Main and West Elm Streets has a new owner and some outside improvements have been done.  Another is that there has been some interest shown in the former three-story Davies Hotel, also on Main Street, just south of Building Material Supply.

Beverly Haggard, councilmember and city liaison to Ports to Plains, told the council the organization is seeking corporate sponsors to pay for future group meetings. She distributed brochures on the overall goals for the organization which is seeking highway improvements between Canada and Mexico on a route that passes through Lamar. Haggard recapped an energy and ag summit meeting held in Denver this past June 13-14 in which part of the ag focus was on growing hemp in southeast Colorado and the benefits of the product through added value business spin-offs.  Haggard provided a brief overview on how, decades ago, industrial competition in the auto industry, helped cause hemp to be classified as a dangerous drug and has still been treated as such, even though the plant, which, when grown under controls, does not produce the THC component as does marijuana.  She said the product had many different uses noting that a half acre of hemp can produce as much paper as two acres of forest.  She noted that right now, the hemp seeds have to be provided by the government or from universities conducting hemp studies.  “It could make beaucoup bucks for our farmers,’ she stated to the council.  It’s now being grown in Baca and Otero counties at this point.  The potential was taken under advisement by the Ports to Plains group she said, suggesting that area citizens write to their legislators to decriminalize the plant.

By Russ Baldwin

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