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Roger Stagner for Lamar Mayor

Roger Stagner

 

Roger Stagner, the incumbent candidate for Mayor of Lamar in the November 7th election, responded to several questions from The Prowers Journal regarding his candidacy.

 

What is the one best thing that can be done to open doors to new businesses in Lamar?

“Some ideas are being tried out in the city, working with businesses that want to locate or develop in Lamar. Our building department has been improved with issuing permits and making sure our inspector works with them, helping them to get through the hurdles of setting up a business and answering their questions so they can move forward.  Urban renewal is helping with this.  We’re not trying to buy a business, but we’re trying to help them develop.  I know that Pueblo throws money to attract a business and we can’t do that, so we have to try to make it as easy as possible for people looking at Lamar.”

How well do you think the Urban Redevelopment Authority has served to aid businesses?

“The biggest initial problem was a lack of understanding of what it did. Now people recognize that it’s there to help with funding to improve their business or to help it get going.  Some things will happen that aren’t planned like a furnace going out and winter’s on its way and you need $20,000 that you don’t have for a replacement and that’s where the Urban Redevelopment Authority can assist the business owner.  If you are willing to invest in your business the Authority can help.  Not 100% of costs, but we’ll help out through financing a job at a reasonable cost.  We’ve helped out with new roofs or roof repairs, fire extinguisher systems needed for a new business…things like that.  This helps keep doors open so they can earn a living.”

What are your thoughts about Lamar’s housing shortage? How can the city aid in that area?

“There are some areas where the city can help and some limitations, too. If there is a willing and qualified buyer for some vacant lands or properties with liens, the city is willing to work to get the land purchased for development.  As far as building houses on that land, SECED has loans available and has done a study for Lamar, trying to find out those needs and how to address them.  The city doesn’t have the money to build a house for sale, but we can work with a developer who might want to develop three houses and work with something like tap fees.  It will take teamwork with lenders and SECED and the city to make that happen, but the city can’t afford to do that and should not get involved on that end when it should come through private means.”

How effective is the mayor when working with the Council and Administrator? How do you view your role?

The position is something of a figurehead, but it’s also part of a team. You have to take the time to be the mayor, more than just sitting with the council.  There are times when I meet with the Administrator or a councilperson to answer a question from a resident and it’s important that we work together.  I think we have a good relationship.  We may not always agree on everything, but once we’ve made a decision, we need to move forward together on it.  I have only one vote on the council like everyone else.  We need to make sure everyone stays informed which is why we go on the radio twice a month to inform the public after our meetings and I’ll take calls from the citizens on issues like the rest of the council.”

There are reports of a national epidemic of opioid abuse and effects on marijuana legalization. How prevalent do you think that is in Lamar?

‘It’s here. I don’t think it’s huge or that much larger than in every small town like ourselves.  There are drug issues in every town and our police department is always trying to make arrests.  There are some areas of law enforcement I wasn’t aware of and I don’t feel all our residents are aware of some of these things from their comments to me.  The courts set the bail on arrests and those limits are created by the legislature.  Even repeat arrests are set by these regulations.  It can take a lot of time to make an arrest and people will ask, ‘Why is that bond set so low, why not more?’ Well, the judge has no choice.  He has to look at what the arrest is for and the bond that is set for it.

Residents have to understand that if they call the police about something they witness in their neighborhood like a lot of cars pulling into a driveway and then leaving, the police just can’t go in and arrest someone on that suspicion. But they will keep an eye on that house and start to investigate, and it will take a while to build a case before they can take action.  It’s a constant battle and we talk about it in council and with the police chief.  It’s not on a back burner, but we need the support of the community.  If you see something going on, call it in.  We need to know what you’ve seen.” 

Do you think Lamar will follow the legalization of marijuana like other communities?

“Our people voted on that several years ago and they voted against it by about 70%. That doesn’t mean it won’t be brought up again, but it was beaten and I don’t want to spend the taxpayer’s money on an issue that was pretty clear.  If someone wants to pay to put it on the ballot, they can do it; that’s they’re right.  I haven’t seen a lot of changes in the community on the issue, but if someone wants to discuss it, I will listen.  You hear about the financial impact it makes in a community, but you may not get all the information about a downside.  I have spoken with members of the Colorado Municipal League and there are some mayors who had it open in their communities who now wish it hadn’t happened and they can tell you the reasons for that change.” 

On how funds could be spent on a successful ARPA settlement.

“The settlement with ARPA is ongoing with some new talks right now. Earlier, the city was to receive $1million upfront with $33,333 paid to us a month for 26 years, some property by the Light Plant and the two coal domes, but it didn’t come to pass, so we’re back to talks again.  We’d like to be able to lower costs or keep them from going up, perhaps using the Charter Appropriation funds from the Utility Board, about $1.5 million a year to do that.  The first offer was for $600,000 to the city and that would have been the end of it.  We’re discussing figures again.  If we get the domes in the settlement, they could be used for some type of financial incentive, or if not, after some years, the domes would come down at ARPA’s expense.  The railroad spur on the property could be of value, but it’s privately owned, but the city could look at negotiations to benefit the owners in some way for the right to use it for business development.  The city would like to get all the way out of ARPA membership, but we can’t, but we’re better right now with the negotiations than we would have been by accepting the first offer of $600,000.”

What do you think is the single biggest concern facing the city right now?

Well, the ARPA settlement tops the list. But I think number two is to keep up the momentum we’ve had from some other projects.  We’ve seen some business come to town, the Pocket Park is done, but we still have other areas to work on.  There’s the Lamar Loop and getting the funding to work on that; the skate park for the kids was promised about two years ago and we’re working on wrapping up that funding area.  Angie Cue from LPI and the downtown improvement projects have all made progress.  Some of it hasn’t been seen, but it’s there.  All of those projects are important to me.”

Why should you receive a vote to be Mayor of Lamar?

My past years as mayor have given me experience and knowledge of how government works, as well as being a member of the council. I’ve worked with the administrator and the city department heads in the past and now we have the Main Street Coordinator with Angie.  The work we’ve done speaks to the citizens that we can make headway and I feel like I’ve done a good job and helping us move in the right direction as a small town.  I feel like we’ve gotten over the hump and I’d like that momentum to continue.”

The same list of questions were asked of former Lamar City Councilman, Felix Dias, who is the other candidate for Lamar City Mayor and his responses will be available in the Prowers Journal online, and in a future Wednesday publication.

By Russ Baldwin

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