Future Airport Ownership Discussed by Council




The fate of the Southeast Colorado Regional Airport is up in the air. The need for new operators or a new contract was discussed during the February 8th Lamar City Council meeting. Tanya and Eric McSwan, who have been the fixed base operators at the airport for several years, have asked the city to pay $5,000 per month for their continued services as they have explained the economic downturn from the pandemic has deeply cut into their profits. The council has stated they cannot afford to take that action which has left the city with a 45-day deadline dating from February 1st of this year to create a Request for Proposal to advertise for a new FBO while paying $100 per day to maintain current operations at the airport.

Mayor Kirk Crespin, several members of the council, the Airport Advisory Board the Prowers Economic Prosperity are in discussions this week with a party, Stefan Soloviev, who has shown an interest in purchasing the airport to turn it into an airplane salvage yard. The council said it needs to determine the status of the airport itself, as if it’s listed as a utility for transportation services, the sale of the airport may have to go before the citizens of Lamar for a vote of approval. City Clerk Linda Williams explained that unless a special election could be called, the vote may have to wait until the November election. Councilman Tamez recommended that any purchase price for the airport needs to, at a minimum, reflect the cost of constructing a new one. Mayor Crespin has been in talks with Soloviev and his son, who, Crespin said, is open to a partnership with the city for the operation of the airport, but there are numerous variables in these negotiations. Administrator Kil explained the city is looking at a $2,500 cost for FBO services for a 45-day extension beyond February and the Advisory Board is considering what may be a six-month contract to maintain airport operations. The city has budgeted $50,000 for the airport operations for the year. The Request for Proposal for an airport sale could go global, according to Crespin, which would also take time to process. The council will receive a briefing on all the negotiations at its February 22nd meeting.

Councilmembers unanimously approved a site lease/purchase agreement between the City of Lamar and North Fork Grain, LLC a southeast Colorado agri-based operation which intends to purchase the former coal domes and related equipment north of East Maple Street. A legal settlement between the city and Arkansas River Power Authority from several years ago deemed that ARPA would pay the city $511,000 for renovating or demolishing that portion of the Lamar Repowering Project. The agreement now calls for North Fork Grain to use the $511,000 to improve the property to benefit its operation for grain storage. It also allows an option for North Fork Grain to purchase the property using paid rental fees towards the purchase price…a payment of $25,000 a year for five years with an option to purchase at the end of the lease. Administrator Kil explained that under the agreement, if there was a purchase, North Fork would pay 60% of the money used for site development, less the rent payment of $125,000. Mayor Kirk Crespin explained that there could be 25 jobs created at the new plant as well as numerous grain hauling contracts tied to the new business. Recent provisions in the contract calls for a site survey, a study for the railroad easement on the property and a basic inventory of all equipment at the site, Kil explained, but would not hinder the signing of the agreement.

GP Aggregate Operation

The council approved an application made by Prowers Aggregate Operators, LLC, to amend their current reclamation permit to allow sand and gravel mining on property 200 feet from structures owned by the city. This will impact the city’s sewer lagoons and monitoring well located north of the mining area. The access road to this area is CR HH.5. Administrator Kil said a potential land swap with GP Aggregates principals, Karl Nyquist and Bill Grasmick. were open to the idea which will allow the city to develop needed lagoons and a treatment center. Mayor Crespin said the new facility could play a major role in future business development in the city. “Last year, we had a business operation look at our area, but passed on a project because our current treatment facilities were not adequate for their needs,” he explained to the council.

Give or take a few days, the Troy Motel abatement project on South Main Street in Lamar should be wrapped up in six weeks. Workers have been on hand for the past several weeks, covering the outside of the derelict building in a silver-colored asbestos containment wrap while the dismantling was taking place indoors. Lamar City Administrator, Steve Kil, said the motel rooms have been cleaned and the caretaker’s house at the eastern end of the inner parking lot will be the next phase of the project before it’s completely leveled and hauled away. The motel has been vacant for a decade or more and the City of Lamar intends to repurpose and offer the vacant lot for a future commercial business operation.

An annual application for the Colorado Pet Over-Population Fund grant was approved by the council. The fund totals $13,400 which is used for veterinary care and spaying and neutering for animals processed through the Lamar Animal Shelter. The grant funds pay for spaying and neutering all dogs being transferred or adopted so the new owner does not have to pay a deposit.

Another grant application was approved by the council for improvements to the downtown Pocket Park. The funds are offered by the CDOT Revitalizing Main Street grant. Morgan Becker, the city’s Community Development Director, explained the grant covers community activities and economic development in the wake of the current COVID-19 emergency. Some of the projects include a fire pit at the pocket park, outdoor lighting and outdoor speakers to augment future entertainment projects.   Other improvements include adding four bike repair stations along the Lamar Loop with two on the 14th Street trail, the skate park and one behind the pocket park. Becker said, “We think two of the stations at either end would work and they’d be securely anchored so no one would walk away with them.” It was explained that because of the stipulations attached to the funding, the more stations that had access to Highway 287, the better the chances of securing the grant. A station was proposed for North Gateway Park and only one for the 14th Street trail.

Prior to the regular meeting agenda, a group of citizens expressed their concerns over the mandated mask-wearing policy issued by the governor and state health department as well as the city-modified option for businesses to operate under regulations to qualify for the 5-Star rating tied to pandemic safety protocols.

The council closed the meeting and moved into executive session to discuss the position description and conduct performance evaluation of the City Treasurer.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: AgricultureCity of LamarConsumer IssuesCOVID-19EconomyFeaturedHealthHot TopicsRecreationTransportationUtilities


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