Lamar City Council Opposes LUB Proposed Rate Hike

 

The Lamar City Council unanimously voted to adopt Resolution No. 20-09-01 which opposes a basic rate adjustment for Light Plant customers during their September 14th meeting. Prior to the Lamar Utilities Board public hearing on Tuesday, September 29th, regarding a proposed 1.4% electric rate increase for several classes of customers, including residential, the Lamar City Council is asking for a postponement for one year for any rate increases. Mayor Kirk Crespin stated that given the economic impact the community is enduring due to the pandemic; it would not be in the best interests of the Light Plant customers to see an increase go into effect next year. If approved, the rate increase would start on January 1, 2021, adding on average, $1.65 to a residential customer’s monthly bill, or about $18.80 per year for an average residential customer.

The resolution cited several reasons to the council’s opposition including surpluses in the city’s current utility funds. The resolution stated that electricity has run a year-to-date surplus of 18.71%; sewer has run a year-to-date surplus of 9.76%; trash collections has run a year-to-date surplus of 19.30% and water has run a similar surplus of 15.33%. It also states the current high cost of electricity from ARPA compared to other utility suppliers such as Xcel Energy and the county’s poverty level of 21.6% compared to the rest of the state at 9.6%. The resolution added that these rates would discourage businesses from any future investment in the community as well as potential residents.

The council agreed to give Arkansas River Power Authority, ARPA, a three-month extension on a November 13, 2020 deadline to demolish portions of the Lamar Repowering Project. This is a second amendment to a mutual release and settlement agreement between ARPA and the City of Lamar.  Flyers will be distributed throughout the surrounding neighborhoods explaining the nature of the project and the estimated timeline.

Lamar City Administrator, Steve Kil, provided an update on three main projects before the city including the Water Distribution System Improvement Project. “We’re waiting on DoLA approval for an $800,000 grant for the third phase of the project which is now focusing on the area between Cedar and Savage. Once the water infrastructure work is complete, CDOT can begin resurfacing the remainder of Main Street,” he explained.

Several GoCO funded projects are being considered using approximately $396,000 for a series of proposed projects including $79,000 for a boat and kayak storage facility at North Gateway Park. Kil said any beach construction project is coming from separate funding at a later date; constructing a playground for the ballfield complex at $214,000, upgrading the city’s tennis court for $11,400 and construction on the Escondido Park soccer field including lighting for an estimated $348,000. Kil said some additional funding could come from the Capital Improvement Fund and the council will address the best use of those funds at the September 28th meeting.

The city has a five-year, revolving street improvement plan which devotes funds on a most-needed basis for city street repairs. Kil said the project will begin in a couple of weeks, focusing on Washington Street from 7th to 12th, Maple Street from 10th to 13th, Tenth Street from Hickory to Poplar, Olive Street from 6th to 13th, Sixth Street from Olive to Elm, Tenth Street from Parmenter to Pearl, East Oak Street from 4th to Second and West Oak Street from Main to 6th.

There was no public comment on the public hearing to rename Ridge Trail to Trail Ridge as originally intended when the Ridges neighborhood was constructed at the south end of Memorial Drive. Anyone living on the street receives USPS mail, but not packages from such services as UPS or Fed Ex as Trail Ridge is not found on GIS mapping. The change will allow city to update maps and record the changes after permission is given.

The council approved Ordinance No. 1240 on first reading for two basic revisions amending the Historic Preservation Advisory Board. Administrator Kil told the council the first of two parts will clean up some of the language and add definitions of terms used in the ordinance. The second portion pertains to section 2-362 that alters the manner by which a historical designation is accomplished, stressing that supporters initiate a designation, rather than oppose one.

The purpose of the advisory board is highlighted by the addition of a definition of intent in the ordinance, stating, “The intent of this ordinance is to create a reasonable balance between private property rights and the public interest in preserving the City’s unique historic character through the designation of buildings, structures, sites, objects and districts for preservation.”

The city approved two separate quotes from CIRSA, the city’s risk advisor, the premiums for the 2021 Worker’s Compensation Preliminary Contribution and the Property/Casualty Preliminary Contribution Renewal.  The compensation premium for 2021 is $148,097 compared to 2020 at $146,903. The new premium for property/casualty will be $483,277.10 compared to the 2020 cost at $469,625.90.

Engineering firm, JVA, recommended the company, Velocity Construction as having submitted the lowest most responsive and responsible bid for the city’s headworks rehabilitation project. Their bid was $322,011 against the engineering estimate of $408,000. The highest bid, according to Administrator Kil, was $418,000.

The annual application for the Animal Assistance Foundation grant to be used to fund the partial salary for the manager of the Lamar Animal Shelter was approved. The city is requesting $7,500 and well as an additional $7,500 for the operation of the shelter and community outreach and education support.

The council voted to accept a state grant to the Lamar Public Library for $4,926 to be spent on library materials as specified in the agreement.

The council voted to accept a $15,000 grant from the State Historical Fund for the structural assessment of the Main Café on Main Street in Lamar. This step is necessary for the eventual reconstruction of the Café. The city has also applied to the Department of Local Affairs for funding for the design and preparation of construction documents needed for bids for the project. The council decided on the company, Form Works, for this project.

By Russ Baldwin

 

Filed Under: City of LamarConsumer IssuesEconomyFeaturedHot TopicsRecreationTransportationUtilitiesWater

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