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Council Breakfast Talk Covers Train Engine, Coal Plant and Marijuana Sales

 

 

Manual Tamez and Joe Gonzales attended their first Lamar Council informal breakfast as new members this past Wednesday, December 4th, as well as Kirk Crespin as newly elected mayor. The council has recently made an effort to engage residents in the monthly meetings, held on the first Wednesday of each month at rotating restaurants. This meeting this month was held at Taco Johns.

Ron Alba attended and had three things he wanted to discuss, the condition of the train engine at the Welcome Center, the status of the coal plant and the council’s view on the sale of recreational or medicinal marijuana within the city limits.

“What’s the first thing a person sees when they get off the train at the depot,” he asked. Alba said the engine is in a sorry state with orange-colored material sticking out through openings in the vehicle. “La Junta has one for visitors to look at and it’s in a lot better shape than the one we’re displaying,” he remarked, asking what can be done to repair the blemishes.

The engine was moved about a quarter mile from the Lamar Library to its present location, years ago, when the Chamber of Commerce office was still on Highway 50, adjacent to the Madonna of the Plains statue. Some of the rusty spots were given a temporary bondo-like fix of expandable polyurethane which turned orangish over the years.

City Treasurer, Kristin McCrea, explained the funding hasn’t been available for an extensive renovation, but it has been an item the council hasn’t overlooked to help improve the overall downtown appearance. Some years ago, the Prowers Lodging Panel gave thought to funding repairs, but their by-laws prevent the organization from purchasing any material goods and can only make donations for marketing and advertising events.

Regarding the coal plant, Alba said the idle plant was a general eyesore in the middle of the city and asked if there was a way the city could just tear it down or consider going back to power production again. Mayor Crespin, who is now the city’s liaison with the Lamar Utility Board, explained it would cost too much to attempt to refit the Repowering Project. Regarding the equipment, he explained, “There have been two inquiries into the purchase of the domes and boiler, but there isn’t an offer we’d take at this point.” Crespin said the court ruled that the domes would need to come down by the end of next year and the city has recouped some of its costs in two lawsuits, but there are no longer any discussions on sale of the construction bonds to Tri-State G & T, a move which would have lowered residents monthly utility bills.

The council discussed Alba’s question about the legalization of marijuana sales in Lamar, following the trend to increasing sales venues among the Arkansas Valley’s communities, most recently in Las Animas. Crespin remarked, “Since I declared my candidacy for mayor, I’ve been contacted by three groups and numerous individuals, all interested in if or when the city would allow commercial sales.”

The mayor acknowledged other communities are reaping some profits through taxation, but there is a trade-off that has some negative aspects. “Although the state has legalized sales, it’s still prohibited federally and that brings banking regulations into play, as a lot of banks don’t want to handle the transactions.”

City Clerk, Linda Williams, explained that if a ballot issue came up in 2020 promoting legalization, the initiators would have to bear the brunt of the cost of putting the question before the voters. “I’d estimate that cost at around $9,000,” she told Alba.

Lamar Police Chief, Kyle Miller, explained that his department has seen an increase in citations for illegal possession of marijuana, with the largest growth in underage residents. “Before Amendment 64 was passed, we’d have a couple of dozen cases, but recently that’s gone up to about 50 or so and many of those are area youths,” he remarked. He added the legalization has changed the character of some downtown areas in other communities. “Trinidad, just north of New Mexico, has had an influx of people who have moved in, just to take advantage of the sales and while some businesses have opened up, a lot of them are right along Trinidad’s main street.” He said he’s attending a meeting in Garden City to explore some of the issues of legalization.

Years ago, when there was a question of an adult-themed store coming to town, the council decided it and others like it would be located on the fringe of the industrial park, near the transfer station. While that may not now apply, the county and the city still have a moratorium on any dispensaries, for either medical or recreational sales.

Crespin said the council takes actions based on the wishes of the residents, “Past elections have shown the voting public is solidly against such places.” Historically, the city council voted in 2011 for a moratorium and the 2012 general election had county voters opposed to Amendment 64 at 2,803 to 1,924 in favor. Since that time, local residents are allowed to grow their own marijuana plants, but must abide by specific code regulations for how it’s grown and cultivated and the number of plants allowed at each residence.

The council is open to any questions from residents during their informal breakfasts. They were designed to provide an opportunity for residents to approach the council with any concerns away from the formality of a city council meeting. The next informal council breakfast will be Wednesday, January 8th at the Rancher’s Restaurant at the Lamar Truck Plaza.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: City of LamarConsumer IssuesEconomyElectionsFeaturedHot TopicsPublic SafetyTourismUtilities

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