City Council Reviewing Changes to Proposed Vacant Building Registration Ordinance


Municipal Offices in Lamar


The Lamar City Council, following a public hearing on June 28, 2021 regarding the use of FPPA ‘Old Hire’ Pension Funds for fire department retirees, approved using the funds to help fund construction of a future public safety building for the City of Lamar.  The governing board for the fund has been inactive for many years with only one retiree participating until their death in 2021.  This left the balance of the contributions made by the City of Lamar at $1.1 M.  The council voted to adopt Resolution 21-06-02 which allows appropriate uses of the funding when there are no longer any beneficiaries left and no claim has been made for one year from the date of the resolution.

The council reviewed the proposed fee structure in a draft ordinance to cover the costs of identifying and registering vacant residential and commercial buildings within the city limits.  The specifics for proposed owner registration costs in the ordinance for residential vacant buildings is a $0.00 annual fee for the first year a building is vacant, with the owner paying $100 for the second year; $200 for the third year and an annual fee of $300 for each subsequent year the building remains vacant.  The fee structure for a commercial property is $50 for the first year, $250 for the second, $500 for the third and $1,000 for each subsequent year the commercial building remains vacant.  A lien may be placed on a building to collect delinquent fees.  Because there are numerous ramifications as to how the fees/fines are levied, the council tabled the fee structure pending additional review.  Some questions still remain as to which city department would be responsible for making initial contacts with the owners to see if they have registered, who would do a follow-up to see if any improvements were being made or if the properties were listed for sale and if the fees are proper in their amounts.  City Attorney, Lance Clark, had asked if the levels of the fees for commercial and residential properties were appropriate and associated with the level of involvement the city would have with its regulation of the properties.

The council continued its discussion from its last meeting of adopting selected updated international building codes following meetings with the Adjustment and Appeals Board, the Planning and Zoning Board, the Variance Board/Building Codes and city staff.  Chief Building Inspector, Craig Brooks presented a newer version of the current ordinance for the adoption of the 2018 International Building Codes.  This will help cover newer construction materials and practices which have come into play since the 2006 codes were adopted by the city in 2008.

The council approved the appointment of June Unruh to a five-year term on the Lamar Housing Authority Board and the appointment of Don Higbee to a five-year term on the Water Advisory Board.  The council also approved a new lease agreement with the state for leased space on behalf of the Lamar Workforce Center at the Senior Center on East Olive Street.  The annual rent will run from $16,033 in 2022 to $17,354 by 2026.

Improvements to the BNSF railway are getting back on track in the region.  The council authorized $12,500 in matching funds for a TIGER/RAISE Grant for repairs to railroad tracks and roadbed used by the AMTRAK Southwest Chief.  Lamar is one of several communities the Southwest Chief runs through and the funding is to help leverage $25M to upgrade the railway system to stay current with passenger train standards.  The funding by the city is contingent of the $25M project being approved.  If passed, this would end the city’s involvement in funding for this stretch of track through its region.

Each year the council reviews dates for the city’s fiscal budget calendar.  A series of discussion are held through the year including the presentation of the final proposed budget to the council in a work session and public hearing on October 11, 2021.

Some calendar highlights for the summer season were announced including the grand opening of North Gateway Park from 10-3pm on Saturday, July 3rd with an 11:15am ribbon cutting;  Friends of the Library monthly book sale July 9 & 10 from 9am to 1pm; the Cal Ripkin (Babe Ruth) State Tournament July 1-3 at the ballfield complex; the annual Windmill Tournament July 9-11th; and the annual new teacher’s reception Wednesday, August 11th at noon at the School District Administration office on West Pearl Street.  The council discussed bringing back their informal monthly breakfast sessions which were halted due to pandemic health concerns.   In other general news, a new field of sod will be planted at Escondido Park on September 15th.  With the demolition of Troy Manor, the city will host the property for sale with the intent of finding a business that can add to the general sales tax revenues.

The council moved into executive session to continue negotiations for a new city administrator from the current list of active candidates.  Mayor Kirk Crespin said the initial field of 17 candidates has been narrowed to six.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: City of LamarConsumer IssuesEmploymentFeaturedLaw EnforcementPublic SafetyRecreationTourismTransportationUtilities


About the Author: