2019 Year in Review Articles – FEBRUARY


The following articles are a recap of various news events which have had an impact on residents of Prowers County this past year.


Stilling Area at Base of Dam, February 17, 2019

John Martin Stilling Basin is Cleaned Out for First Time in 70 Years

The cleaning project, underway since this past November, is nearing completion at John Martin Dam in Bent County. A trip to the dam this past Sunday, February 17th, shows that the water from the stillway has been drained and earth moving equipment has scraped clean, almost all the accumulated sediment that has built up over the decades. Access to the ground work is denied to the public while vehicles can still pass freely over the top of the dam.

John Martin Dam is a gravity dam, consisting of a concrete middle section, and two earthen wing dams, on either end. The concrete section contains 16 tainter gates at the top of the dam, and six service gates near the bottom. The service gates control most of the water released into the stilling basin, and, ultimately, control the flows downstream on the Arkansas River. The tainter gates are used to release flood water. The stilling basin sits immediately downstream of the concrete dam, and contains large concrete baffles, to dissipate the energy of the water that is released from the dam’s tainter gates.

To ensure the stilling basin performs as expected during flood releases, it is recommended that the stilling basin be completely dewatered, and inspected, every ten years. Before the inspections can begin, all of the sediment, which has accumulated from the normal water releases, must be removed. Since the completion of the dam, John Martin’s stilling basin has never been cleaned. That is over 70 years’ worth of sediment – equal to 60,000 cubic yards!

The final steps of the project include cleaning and inspecting the now-empty concrete stilling basin, and performing any needed repairs. Work is scheduled to continue throughout February and March 2019.

By Tucker Feyder, John Martin Park Ranger and Jonathan Tague, John Martin Project Office manager


Prowers Lodging Panel Reviewing By-Laws Regarding Promotions

The Prowers County Lodging Tax Panel will begin to review their by-laws in support of a proposal to use Panel funding to promote Prowers County in general as well as specific events as they have in the past.

Panel member, Chad Hart, suggested the current by-laws do allow a general advertising campaign which would benefit the county as a whole by bringing more visitors to the area. “I’ve been on the board for three years and we do the same old thing and we get the same results. People apply and do their own advertising and most are professional at it. I’m curious as to why we’re not advertising our county for heads and beds,” he stated. Hart felt the by-laws are flexible enough to allow the Panel to decide to advertise on its own. He continued, “We need to market ourselves so we can draw in more people to stay in our lodging places, eat at our restaurants and shop in our stores. Alamosa is one of the counties that markets this way.” The Panel by-laws draw heavily from the same by-laws used by Alamosa when it was formed. Hart suggested that although the Panel’s budget for 2019 had been approved, it could still be altered to allow marketing funds for a general promotion of the county. County Commissioner, Ron Cook, suggested a meeting be set up with Ron Farmer, accountant for the County, who has informed them of the uses of past funding sources. New Panel member, Marcus Widner, suggested a sub-committee be organized to review the by-laws and bring their findings to the Panel and County Commissioners for recommendations by the Tuesday, March 19th meeting.

The Panel operates on an annual budget of about $95,000 which is generated by a 2% tax on motel rooms used throughout the year. The Panel funds activities which promote the county and are hoped to generate overnight visitors. That 2% tax, though, is levied on all motel rentals throughout the year.

By Russ Baldwin


County Commissioners OK Public Land Ordinance

Ordinance 2019-1 regulating control of public parks, land and facilities in the county was approved on second reading by the Prowers County Commissioners during their February 12th meeting.

‘Open Space’ as defined in the ordinance includes any park, public lands or facilities that Prowers County owns in fee: and all trails, waters, buildings, structures, roads, parking lots or facilities located on such Park, Public Lands or Public Facilities. Enforcement of the regulations will be applied by the Prowers County Sheriff, Undersheriff and his deputies. The ordinance spells out the legalities of use for the lands and properties including trespassing when areas are closed to entry, acts of vandalism, fires, trash responsibilities, treatment of wildlife, use of firearms, consumption of alcohol, overnight camping, use of vehicles and commercial activities.

By Russ Baldwin


First Steps Taken on Lamar Housing Needs

Adequate, affordable housing and job/business growth are intertwined. If Lamar and Prowers County can’t meet future housing needs, the job market and new businesses may not develop in the community. A lot of rental and ownership properties are sub-standard and aging according to a 2017 study that assessed six counties in southeast Colorado. These figures and others were discussed during a housing needs seminar held at SECED, Southeast Colorado Economic Development on January 30th.

Executive Director, Stephanie Gonzales, summarized some key elements of that study which found that the housing market is aging with up to 36% of the houses in the region built before 1939. Many are lacking basic amenities taken for granted today and they offer low appraisement values. Most renters have incomes that fall below the median wage level. By 2025, the six counties will see a population grown of about 623 adults and by that year, the 65 years or older crowd will have increased by 1,300.

The discussion group included Gonzales, municipal representatives from the City of Lamar, Prowers Economic Prosperity, the banking industry, real estate, health and business. The general consensus was, based on income and age, the most beneficial means of housing development would come under clusters of two-bedroom, one bath, patio-model housing units of 1,200 square feet to serve the older population.

Gonzales explained that SECED will begin to develop a prospectus over the next three months to present to finance lenders looking to secure capital gains tax deferrals when they invest funding in housing development. “Lamar is in an opportunity zone which qualifies for significant funding for home construction stretched over a ten-year span, but there has to be a means of showing a return on that investment within the first five years,” she told the gathering.

By Russ Baldwin


Pedal the Plains Depends on Community Volunteers

Art and Reality

The 2019 Pedal and Plains, three-day biking event, will be held in Lamar, Springfield and Holly between Friday, September 13th through the 15th. Each of the three days takes a commitment from community volunteers, according to Tour Director, Deirdre Moynihan. She and several members of the planning group held an overview meeting for the communities involved in this year’s run at the Lamar Community Building on Monday, February 4th.

“You can expect to have from 900 to 1,200 persons in your community for one of those three days,” she told the gathering of community representatives. Lamar will actually see that many bicyclists on registration day on Thursday, September 12th, the following day for the first leg of the race and again on Sunday as the riders make their last trek between Springfield and Lamar. Holly will be the mid-point town for the riders on the 14th as they prepare for a 75-mile journey to Springfield for their overnight stay. A tentative route is being developed that take the riders into Coolidge, Kansas for a turnaround point and then back to Holly. Two Buttes and the Black Hole were also suggested as a focal point for the southern journey to Highway 160 leading into Springfield. While the bicyclists prefer a hard-surfaced road, they are used to traveling on either dirt or gravel, but would prefer to do that on a dry surface.

Those attending the Monday session included the Lamar Fire and Police Departments representatives, Lamar Chamber of Commerce, health-oriented representatives, the Colorado State Patrol, and representatives from the Cities of Lamar, Springfield and Holly as well as Baca and Prowers County Commissioners.

By Russ Baldwin

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