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City Gets Briefed on ARPA Bond Reduction Plan

 

Municipal Offices in Lamar

Now that the litigation between the City of Lamar and ARPA, Arkansas River Power Authority, has been settled, ARPA is looking for a means to reduce the size of the $140M in outstanding construction bonds for the Lamar Repowering Project. ARPA General Manager, Rick Rigel, explained the process ARPA is considering to the Lamar City Council during its January 22nd meeting.

Five bond refunding requests were approved during the construction phase, amounting to the $140M which is being paid off by customers of Lamar Light and Power until the deadline of 2043. Rigel explained, “We think there is a real opportunity to get back into the bond market now that we have all of our outstanding litigations settled, and maybe can resolve in some significant savings for us.”  Goldman Sachs has been hired to underwrite the bonds, according to Rigel with the hope to improve the city’s credit rating from a BBB minus to a flat BBB rating.

Not all of the refunds would be resolved as some limitations have been imposed, such as the 2010 bond of about $16M which would not be settled until 2020. Rigel felt it would be too costly to extend the bond payments until 2047 as had been suggested which would only increase the interest payments.  He added that these actions would probably not lower the current rates to customers, but could help stabilize them against any increases, something that has not occurred since 2011.  He said some savings might develop from the sale of the hardware, property and equipment the city received from the ARPA settlement.

As with other transactions, all six member communities would have to be unanimous in the agreement which includes Lamar, Trinidad, Las Animas, La Junta, Holly and Springfield. Rigel said a document for consideration will be developed for the members and he would have a progress report for the city council in March.  The approval would include the legal opinion that the Organic Contract and Power Sales Agreement are valid and enforceable.

The Lamar City Council set February 12, 2018 as a date for a public hearing on a requested 3.2% beer license for Pilot Travel Centers which opened for business in Lamar on January 13th.

A telephone poll was ratified by the council approving a resolution supporting the agreement between the City of Lamar and the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund. A second phone poll was ratified approving the submission of a History Colorado Certified Local Government Grant for a Historic Resource Survey.  The $20,000 grant will be used to identify historical resources throughout the City of Lamar.  The Historic Resources Survey Plan will be conducted in three stages; meetings with town officials and residents to identify preservation issues and areas of concern as well as a records search of prior surveys and identification of historic properties within the project area; an evaluation stage during which statements of historic contexts will be completed as well as an analysis of gathered information and finally a review of the recommendations, implementation and adoption stage encompassing the of the role of the preservation player sand development of implementation strategies.

The council re-appointed Wayne Reinert to the Planning and Zoning Commission for a five year term; recommended the appointment of Dwight Daniels to the Variance Board replacing Dave Parker who resigned; re-appointed Earl Hawkins to the Variance Board and appointed Palle Day-Jensen to the Adjustment and Appeals Board for a five year term replacing Scott Rankin who resigned.

Rafael Rodriguez, a new city council member, replaced Keith Nidey and has assumed the liaison positions previously held by Nidey: Parks and Recreation Board, Community Resource/Senior Center and LPI, Lamar Partnership Inc.  All other liaison positions remain the same.

The council selected Bert Davis, Health Resources Manager to serve as the city’s representative to the County Health Pool.

Police Chief Miller told the council the Lamar Animal Shelter had an eight week old puppy named Ranger develop a viral infection during which the Lamar Animal Medical Center treated the animal back to recovery at a fee of $533. IF the city applies for, and is granted the Pet Finder Medical Emergency Grant, the medical expenses will be fully covered.

Lamar Fire Chief Jeremy Burkhart received approval from the council to apply for a FEMA grant for 26 Scott X3 5500 PSI SCBA’s equipped with alarm and thermal environment warning protections as well as facemasks. The breathing units cost $200,928 and through the grant the city’s cost will be a 5% match, or $9,568.  “Without the grant, just one of these airpacks costs about the same as the match,” explained Burkhart.  The city is on square one, though, as the grant will only now be submitted to see if it is approved.  The match has not been provided for in the budget, but the council was told by City Treasurer Kristin McCrea and Administrator Sutherland, that there will be room to find funds for the needed equipment.

The Lamar City Charter requires that an independent audit be conducted annual on all funds of the city. The council recommended the services be provided by Holscher, Mayberry and Company, LLC who has an existing contract with the city through 2020.  On another financial matter, the council adopted the proposed FY 2018 Compensation Plan Update.  The study compares the city’s wage and salary structure with other comparably sized communities.  A study was conducted in 2012 and this new study reflects any changes that have occurred in the past five years for the council’s review.

Lamar resident, Gretchen Stewart, spoke with the council during the open Audience Participation segment of the meeting, requesting that the council consider her group’s abilities to assist with curtailing feral cats and strays in the city. She said her volunteers adhere to an effective policy of trap-neuter and release which is more effective in maintaining low population numbers of stray cats throughout the city than destroying them.  “Our costs are much lower than the $20,000 mentioned by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife representative,” she noted.  Mayor Roger Stagner thanked her for the offer and explained that at this time, the city is not planning any action on the earlier offer.  “Actually, the CPW approached us with the offer and at this point, we have no funds budgeted this year to cover any costs for this kind of service.”  Stagner said the council will review the situation to see if some action would be forthcoming.

Councilman Oscar Riley noted the Spreading Antlers Golf Course will add a player fee of $35 to cover the costs for any future benefit tournaments and organizations can factor that into their plans. The Lamar Airport Board is going to have to develop grant funding to put a new overlay surface on the crosswinds runway at the airport.  He said the loss of that runway would be crucial to future use of regional aircraft.

The council has scheduled a work session for February 5th at 6”30pm and the council monthly breakfast will be held February 7th at 7am at McDonalds. The council approved the use of Willow Creek Park on May 18th for the annual Rod Run and Car Show held during Lamar Days and city offices will be closed for President’s Day on February 19th.

By Russ Baldwin

 

 

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