City Council Reviews COVID Impact on Re-Opening Local Businesses, Allows Leeway on Waivers



The coronavirus pandemic continues to impact social and business developments in Lamar to include the closing of the Lamar Welcome Center, one of five in Colorado which will not receive funding to continue operations at this present time. This was one of several impacts the council explained to the public during the Tuesday, May 26th meeting. The City of Lamar is considering providing funding to the center up to July 1st, the date of the new annual agreement between the Center, City of Lamar and the state. “This is part of the statewide budget crunch Colorado is experiencing due to revenue losses from the virus,” explained Mayor, Kirk Crespin.

He added that the CDOT Main Street highway project south of Lamar is also on hold. “It was to run from Park Street, south and is now on hold. The state has proposed a ‘white coat’ for a concrete surface only down to Savage Avenue.”

City Administrator, Steve Kil, said he hopes to see progress on architect designs for the Main Café in Lamar. Community Development Director, Angie Cue, is meeting with the firm for a proposal for services on designs for the Main Street building. Kil said he hopes funding can be found from either DoLA or the state Historical Society. In response to the pandemic, he said SDBG funding up to $5 billion is being made available to Colorado and he will watch development to see how much Lamar may be able to receive through local applications.

The ballparks are still closed and at this point, there are no plans for the 4th of July fireworks display, however some new directives are expected by June 1st which may make allowances. The variance sought by the city through the Prowers County Commissioners and County Public Health department has not been responded to at this point.

The council approved a motion to temporarily suspend public hearings for 120 days, during the COVID-19 pandemic, for liquor license modification of premises approval. The state developed an outline by which a restaurant, bar, pub or other business which serves liquor, can obtain a modification which would follow the new social distancing guidelines, allowing them to return to almost normal business operations. New state regulations were released from Governor Polis’s office Tuesday evening.  Only restaurant operations were discussed by the council.

Kil, said, “I’ve received a lot of questions from business owners, mostly from restaurants, about when they will be able to reopen; can they open outdoors to make up for lost business and lack of full capacity…there’s just a lot of uncertainty here.” In order to expedite requirements, after some discussion, the council approved a motion to waive the public hearing during the coronavirus pandemic, pending any future relaxation on regulations at the state level. Kil, City Clerk Linda Williams and Police Chief Kyle Miller will still review an application from a restaurant before issuing the waiver to a qualified business.

Community Development Manager, Angie Cue, explained that as Lamar is designated a Graduate Colorado Main Street Community, it is eligible for an annual $10,000 mini-grant through the Department of Local Affairs Mini-Grant program with a match of 25% or $3,335. The council approved acceptance of the award and the funds are earmarked for various Main Street improvements in this new, five-year contract. The council also approved a DoLA scholarship grant of $2,200 under the Main Street program for five years. These funds will be applied to the annual National Main Street Conference, annual Colorado Main Street Managers retreat and other qualifying Main Street events. The approval was contingent on remaining within the TABOR guidelines as suggested by City Treasurer, Kristin McCrea.

A yearly independent audit of all city funds as required by the Lamar City Charter has been delayed due to the impact of COVID-19. The council approved a request for an extension until September 30, 2020, which will be submitted to the Office of State Auditor for 2019.

A five-year lease agreement with Southeast Networks & Support, LLC on County Road 6 was approved by the council at the current rate for use of the land. The firm provides internet services to the surrounding Lamar area and owns “Tower E” which sits on city-owned land. The original agreement was initiated in 2011 and has since expired. The city is paid $200 per year for the land lease, plus $25 per antenna used on the tower.

The council directed Administrator Kil to draft an agreement with realtor-developer Ivor Hill regarding his proposal to construct a multi-unit storage area for recreational vehicles on property at 700 East Parmenter in Lamar. This past February, Hill outlined plans for the development which would require demolishing several buildings at the site, erecting a perimeter fence and remodeling the exterior and interior of the main building. The council allowed him 90 days to make a proposal. However there has been some delay in his submission to the city due to COVID-19 issues. Administrator Kil told the council Hill has requested an additional six weeks beyond the plans to begin to demolish the accessory buildings on May 31st, the day of the closing. “I’d like to see a shorter time frame,” Kil offered to the council, adding that exterior improvements to the main building should be considerable, not just a coat of paint. “We can hold off an any interior improvements for a while, but the exterior comes first,” he explained. Kil said he’d like to see a work permit from Hill in about a week as well as some demolition work on the site. Kil said he’d put together an outline for review for the developer and report to the council on progress on the agreement.

Kil, noted that Flag Day will be observed on Sunday, June 14th throughout the city and there will be no council breakfast on June 3rd. On a separate note, not connected to the pandemic, the 40 year run of Burger King in Lamar ended as of Tuesday evening, May 26th. The council remarked that an inability to come to financial terms for the rental fee of the building and parking lot between the franchise owner, David Cooley and corporate headquarters was the cause for the closing. They acknowledged the community support over the years from both Cooley and long-time manager, Roxy Page.
By Russ Baldwin

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