2020 Year in Review – May

 

 

Early COVID-19 Cases Begin to Increase 

New Positive Cases of COVID-19 have been identified in a Health Care Worker and an area youth in Prowers County as of May 12, 2020. 

This brings the total of cases in the county to nine.  None have required hospitalization and prior cases have either been listed as isolated or quarantined until their cases have been updated. 

The CDPHE website provides a daily summation of cases in the state with only four counties not listing any contagion as of May 12th.  The website is updated daily at 4pm. 

These are the current regional cases that have been noted for the southeast Colorado region: Baca-12, Bent-1, Cheyenne-5, Crowley-39, Kiowa-0, Kit Carson-25, Las Animas-4 and Otero-10.
By Russ Baldwin

 

 

Mayor Kirk Crespin

 

 

 

Lamar Council Responds to Social Distancing Issues 

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.  

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.  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.

By Russ Baldwin 

 

LUB Holds In-Person Monthly Meeting, Will Work with Delinquent Accounts 

The Lamar Utility Board held an in-person meeting on Tuesday, May 26th but restricted attendance to ten persons in order to maintain social distancing protocols. 

Light Plant employees have been adhering to the “Stay at Home” and “Safer at Home” orders from the state and as of March 26th, shifts were modified to five-hour days although the regular, full-time schedule was re-enacted as of May 27th.    Superintendent, Houssin Hourieh, explained that in-person access to the main plant office had been restricted and daily temperatures were taken of employees as a safety precaution to protect them and the public from the COVID virus.  Per Governor Polis’s orders, all utility disconnects will remain suspended until Saturday, May 30th and crew operations will return to normal.  Hourieh noted that as many as 200 customers are behind on payments, an increase since the suspension was put into effect.  He estimated that translates, roughly, to $63,000 in arrears while end-of-year amounts have generally been around $50,000 for uncollected accounts.  Hourieh told the board that, if a customer showed good intent, the Light Plant would work with that account.   

“On the 30th, we will send out disconnect notices as we always have, but this time we’ll work with the customer and this time instead of six months, we’ll go a year.  If that’s okay with the board to work out a payment plan.”  Lisa Denman, LUB accountant, explained that the notice will alert the customer to the disconnect on June 12th, but the plant won’t take action on that until June 24th.  She added the plant will urge delinquent customers to contact Energy Outreach through the local social services agency in Lamar for assistance with their payments.

By Russ Baldwin

 

Courtesy Photo – Colorado Parks & Wildlife

 

Camping at Colorado State Parks and State Wildlife Areas will remain Closed until Further Notice 

DENVER – Camping at Colorado state parks and State Wildlife Areas will remain closed until further notice, as Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) works to implement system-wide safety protocols related to social distancing in campgrounds.  

Customer, volunteer, and employee safety remain a top priority. CPW is committed to providing park services at the highest level possible while also ensuring public safety. System camping cancellations will be sent via email. Currently, no definitive date is known for when sites will reopen.

 

Airborne!!

 

City of Lamar Reopens Skate Park 

Lamar, Colorado – The City of Lamar, upon consultation with the Governor’s office, was advised there are no current restrictions that direct the closure of skate parks. Based upon this new information, the City is excited to re-open the Skate Park to the public. This was a cooperative effort between the City of Lamar, Prowers County Health& Environment and the Governor’s office.  Social distancing must be practiced and gathering in large groups is prohibited.  Playgrounds and picnic areas continue to be closed.

 

 

Colorado Employment Situation April 2020 

Nonfarm payroll jobs in Colorado declined by 323,500 from March to April to 2,473,400 jobs, according to the survey of business establishments. Government declined by 12,100 payroll jobs and the private sector lost 311,400. March estimates were revised down to 2,796,900, and the over the month change from February to March was a decrease of 16,500 rather than the originally estimated decrease of 3,900.  

According to the survey of households, the unemployment rate increased six and one-tenth of a percentage point in April to 11.3 percent. This is the highest unemployment rate for Colorado since comparable records began in 1976. The prior record high was 8.9 percent (September to December 2010). Additionally, the previously reported March 2020 unemployment rate of 4.5 percent was revised up to 5.2 percent. 

The number of people actively participating in the labor force in April decreased 67,400 over the month to 3,069,200 and the number of people reporting themselves as employed decreased 251,200 to 2,721,300. The larger decrease in total employment than in labor force caused the number of unemployed to increase 183,800 and the unemployment rate to increase to 11.3 percent. 

The national unemployment rate increased ten and three-tenths of a percentage point in April to 14.7 percent. This is the highest unemployment rate for the U.S. since comparable records began in 1948. The previous record high was 10.8 percent (November to December 1982). 

 

 

 

Holly Trustees:  Landfill and Water Issues 

The Holly Trustees held a teleconference monthly meeting on Wednesday, May 6th at which time, oaths of office were administered to two new board members; Blain Ice and Vance Brian, each of whom will serve four year terms as well as Casey Rushton who was re-elected to office.  Rod Swisher will serve a two year term as will Mayor Calvin Melcher.  Anthony Moldenhauer, who was absent, was appointed as Mayor Pro-tem and is expected to take his office at the next Trustees meeting.   

Tanner provided a written administrator’s report for the trustees which outlined three main areas of concern, landfill, sewer main issues and the need for equipment which can jet/clean its sewer system.

Tanner also provided a one-page report detailing the efforts over the past two years to upgrade the community’s landfill operations and regulations as well as purchase a new collection truck.  It lays out a timeline of events beginning in January 2017 when the town received eight violations by the CDPHE at the landfill.   

A series of efforts by the Trustees was recapped to keep the landfill open while the board sought a means of financing required improvements.  The Trustees also considered a transfer station as an alternative to continuing landfill improvements although that eventually was found not to be cost effective and a contract was signed with a new hauler, Plains Disposal, this past February.  Tanner added, “The Holly Board of Trustees consensus has been to prioritize grants and lending services to fund a new drinking well, water tower and water lines to service the community rather than borrowing to establish a garbage transfer station.” 

By Russ Baldwin

 

Karen Bryant, PMC Chief Executive Officer

 

PMC Board Notes Virus Impact on Community, Hospital Operations 

The Prowers Medical Center Board of Directors will remain almost the same as before the May, 2020 election.  During the board’s monthly meeting, Wednesday, May 27, the motion was made and approved to have Julie Branes serve as chair, Ron Farmer as vice-chair, Connie Brase as secretary/treasurer and Amber Thompson will assume her new role as recording secretary. 

Karen Bryant hospital Chief Executive Officer, Julie Branes, Board Chair and Scott Turner, PMC’s liaison from Quorum Health Resources, provided the board with an update on the virus impact to the hospital.  Branes said the March 25th emergency declaration is still in place and acknowledged a shortage of available means of obtaining PPE and other supplies.  Turner said QHR has secured a warehouse in Tennessee which is stockpiling all forms of emergency supplies for client hospital requests.  “We have seen requests in one week range between 29 to 51 clients over the past six weeks.”  QHR, he added, has created a daily website created for the sole purpose of providing timely information on the latest findings on the nature of COVID-19 and the best means of treating patients. 

Bryant recapped a recent update she provided to the Prowers County Commissioners, stating that the hospital is beginning to look at the best means possible of returning to its former physical state before steps were taken to isolate virus patients from the rest of the staff.  Testing protocols are still being used before allowing entry to the basic hospital buildings.  “Our rehab clinic is beginning to transition away from the temporary virus ward we had set up at the outset,” she stated, but added that by the same token, PMC is reviewing the best policies for returning to patient isolation status should a second wave or outbreak present itself later this spring or summer. 

In action following the earlier executive session, the board voted to approve a contract with Karen Bryant as the hospital’s new Chief Executive Officer and authorized hazardous pay for team members.

By Russ Baldwin

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