Planning and Zoning Commission Okays Zoning Change for East Maple WPA Site

WPA Building

WPA Building

The county owned WPA buildings at 800 East Maple Street in Lamar had their zoning designation altered by a unanimous vote of the Lamar Planning and Zoning Commission following a public hearing during a Tuesday, April 12th meeting.  Members Tim Courkamp, Kent Fisher, Oscar Riley and Gary Oxley approved the zoning request from Doug Carrigan to alter the designation from R-E to I-1, paving the way for a community corrections center to be established on the 3.5 acre site, almost opposite from Riverside Cemetery and Dragon Enterprises.

WPA Buildings on East Maple Street

WPA Buildings on East Maple Street

Carrigan, who owns and operates a private facility, Advantage Treatment Centers in Sterling, Colorado for the past ten years, told the Lamar City Council during an earlier meeting, he intends to use the WPA property for a scaled-down version of his Sterling facility.  If all conditions are met, he expects the property to be converted to hold from 20-25 local clients who are on parole or probation.  He estimated a client would be at the facility for from six months to two years under close supervision and under the direction of the state Department of Criminal Justice.  Carrigan praised the work of the probation officers in the 15th Judicial District in Prowers County, but said there are limitations to how closely a probation officer can stay with their case load of clients.  He said he anticipates hiring from 12 to 15 employees for his Lamar enterprise, and although the clients would be seeking work in the community, they must submit to a breathalyzer test every time they return to the facility and would have frequent urine analysis checks for use of drugs.

Carrigan, who grew up in Lamar, said he plans few structural changes to the WPA buildings, built during the Great Depression of the 1930s. “I know we’ll have upgrades for heat, air, light and plumbing to comply with codes, but the exterior of the buildings will be basically the same,” he explained.  The buildings are a landmark, but do not have any historical listing.  Living quarters will be mostly dormitory style with a common mess hall and kitchen.

He added, “Some people will express concern about what we’re doing here, along the lines of, ‘Oh no, we have a lot of criminals under one roof in town,’ I get that,” he told the audience.  “The thing is,” he said, “they’re already here.”  Carrigan explained that his clients will be made up of local residents who have been convicted of some form of crime and are working off their sentences for probation or parole, just as if they were living in their own homes in the community.  He explained that under his facility, they’ll be checked daily on their whereabouts in town and will be urged to seek work to establish a savings account, and to fund restitution to their victims and to pay for their stay in his facility.

“Employers will have the guarantee of a drug-free employee when they hire any of our clients,” he said.  He also said that if any of the clients aren’t making the effort to become a part of the community or begin to alter the thought patterns that got them arrested to begin with, they’ll be transferred out.  He explained, “We really aren’t taking jobs away from local residents as these people already live here.  If they were doing this in Denver or Durango, chances are, they’d eventually return to their home town once their sentence had been finished.”

Carrigan said his employees undergo training sessions at the facility and go to some classroom instruction at parts of the state. When he presented his plans to the city council, he estimated a starting salary around $12.47 an hour. If all conditions are met for his plans, he expected to be operational in about a year.  City Administrator, John Sutherland, along with Lamar Mayor Roger Stagner, offered their support of the project, as well as Prowers County Commissioner Ron Cook.  No one at the meeting spoke in opposition to the zoning change request.  The change will go before the Lamar City Council for final approval.

By Russ Baldwin

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