Lamar Council Responds to Social Distancing Issues

Municipal Offices in Lamar

 

The Lamar City Council continued to exercise caution with social distancing protocols in effect during their May 11 meeting via videoconferencing.

Mayor Kirk Crespin addressed the balancing act the city is conducting, weighing citizen’s desires to create or attend social functions while continuing to keep those citizens protected from the COVID virus by adhering to State of Colorado directives for Safer at Home, social distancing and face mask protocols.

The idea of holding a Small Fry Fishing Derby day had been presented to the city for this month, but it would have had to have been cleared by Prowers County Health and Environment, Prowers Medical Center and the Prowers County Commissioners. Crespin said the city has to follow the guidelines set by the state and an event could possibly receive a variance to waive some restrictions. City Administrator, Steve Kil, suggested the organizing group work with the city’s Park and Recreation Department as well as Colorado Parks and Wildlife to co-sponsor the youth fishing event sometime before the 4th of July and the city would consider $500 in seed money to assist the project.

Crespin reiterated the council’s reasoning regarding the decision to close the Lamar Municipal Swimming Pool for the season, highlighting the state health department’s safety directive given the continued COVID-19 outbreak in the state as well as up to nine reported cases of the virus in Prowers County over the past two weeks. The Mayor said it was a difficult decision, but logistics and finances played a role in the decision as well as the Safer-at-Home directive. He explained in a video town hall early last week that, given the amount of time required to prepare the pool and hire and train employees, the pool would be opening to the public at about the same time in mid August when it usually closed for the season. “We have to consider that we could have the staff at risk when dealing with people in the pool, mainly on the deck for a gathering place, not so much the water. There’s also social distancing for the locker rooms which could be complicated to enforce,” he explained. Crespin added the pool has a $185,000 budget which amortized over the 12 week pool season isn’t that big a financial hit, but to be open for only two weeks, perhaps, and still bear the brunt of that cost isn’t something the city would do lightly.

He did note that the skateboard park was allowed to open within the limits of social distancing and this act came directly as a response from the city to Governor Polis’s task force on dealing with the virus.

Administrator Kil said the city complex is opening in a limited fashion at this point and while employees are no longer on a staggered schedule, “Social distancing is still going to be enacted. We have plenty of PPE equipment for our staff, but we want to make certain that everyone will not be placed in a vulnerable situation.”

He reminded the council that city offices will be closed for Memorial Day on May 25th and the council will meet on the 26th, again, probably through video conferencing and officials are waiting for a time to schedule a FAA Regional Airport Ribbon Cutting event. “Our airport is being given a regional status which means a heightened awareness of our location and services on a broadened level. Lamar will be shown on future flight plan maps which works to our benefit,” he stated.

The council approved a Cares Act Grant application of $30,000 which will be used to offset the annual cost of utility expenses at the Lamar Airport. Using the grant would take some pressure off the annual General Fund Budget as the utilities are estimated at that same amount. There is no payback nor matching funding required. The federally approved Act provided approximately $10 billion in grants to eligible airports across the country.

The council adopted Resolution No. 20-05, proclaiming Friday, May 15th as “COVID-19 Remembrance Day” in which Governor Polis has asked for a coordinated effort among all communities to take a moment of silence in remembrance of all those who have lost their lives from COVID-19. Those participating will be asked at 7pm on that evening to turn all building lights red, police and fire to run on all lights, asking all Coloradans to wear protective face coverings and to observe a moment of silence. Two no votes were cast by councilmen, Manuel Tamez and Joe Gonzales. Tamez offered a personal opinion, stating that in light of all deaths across the country, to single out the coronavirus by resolution sensationalizes the attention that has been given to the pandemic, and on a national level, isn’t healthy.

This past March 9th, the City of Lamar adopted Resolution No. 20-03-01 which established an incentive program for new home construction as well as promoting new residential developments in the community. The housing assessment program, COPERR stands for Colorado Partnership for Education and Rural Revitalization. Administrator Kil said the state attorney general has $5 million available for southeast Colorado which will revitalize our neighborhoods in rural communities. It will work with local colleges to augment their building trades curriculum. “We can work in a cooperative effort for either demolishing or rebuilding these homes as warranted and the attorney general will supply the money,” he explained. He said he was asked to complete an inspection form which has been approved by every community in southeast Colorado. He said, “Angie Cue from the city’s community development program and Craig Brooks, Chief Building Inspector, is inspecting every home that could qualify for the program and estimating the cost of every single housing structure in the community for either being remodeled or demolished.” The goal, he said, is to provide an affordable home for families in the community.

Kil also noted the progress being made on the five, current housing development projects underway in the city. “We haven’t had a development project in the past 27 years and at this point, the one headed by Joe Malecki has had its plans finalized and will be heading to the planning commission for consideration.

In other action, the city will seek a $2,000 grant to develop a pickleball court adjacent to the tennis courts on the north end of Willow Creek Park. Kil said the sport is growing in popularity across the country and it’s played as a scaled-down version of tennis. The next Lamar City Council meeting will be Tuesday, May 26th.

By Russ Baldwin

 

 

 

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