City Council’s Cooperative Meeting

Councilpersons at Las Brisas

 

The Lamar City Council hosted their La Junta counterparts to an informal luncheon meeting this past Wednesday, March 16th, comparing notes on municipal problems, solutions and opportunities to combine efforts for shared projects.

Lamar Mayor, Kirk Crespin, welcomed the La Junta delegation, saying this would be an opportunity to compare ideas on some future cooperative projects, adding, “Our two cities, while covering a large area, still have small populations compared to the Front Range.  We need to work together to be able to let our voices be heard to develop an impact that will be noticed.”

The meeting had no strict agenda, but included governance cooperation, economic development, regional tourism and infrastructure development.  Other topics included negotiating the homeless situation in both communities, registration of abandoned or empty residential/commercial businesses, reciprocal tourism opportunities, constant hiring of municipal employees and a path of promotion to help retain city workers.

La Junta Mayor, Joseph Ayala, told the gathering this, and similar meetings should help promote long range planning, We’re starting something here that works for forward development, especially after we’ve stepped down from our positions.  This partnership needs to last and not become a one and done scenario.  We need to be able to stay together for the long term.  I’d really like to see some results come from this initial meeting.”

Lamar City Administrator, Rob Evans, said Lamar reviews municipal salary levels every five years, such as the one now underway.  “This internal equity study helps us stay on an equivalent salary basis for employees in similar positions in other communities that have a representative population as Lamar.  We also need to plan on a succession plan where departing employees can be replaced by the ones to follow and train them for a smooth takeover.”

Rick Klein, La Junta City Manager, remarked that several years ago, La Junta residents voted for a 1% sales tax increase that helped generate a $5 raise for municipal employees.  “We found that the state police, CDOT officials and power companies were approaching our departments, trying to entice them to move for automatic pay raises.  One company offered a $19 an hour rate higher than what we were paying!”

Mayor Crespin admitted that a tax hike is a hard sell in Lamar.  “A couple of years ago, in order to help fund our ambulance service, we tried and failed to have a 0.25% tax increase passed by Lamar voters. The council and department heads try to run as tight a budget as we can.”

Both cities are working to correct a situation of houses and businesses that lay dormant.  Lamar is developing an ordinance requiring property owners to register with the city and provide a plan for future development, whether putting a home or business on the open market or planning upgrades for future use or sales.  La Junta, according to Klein, has a dormant fee for unused properties.

Lamar councilman, Mike Bellomy, asked how La Junta deals with utilities for empty houses, inquiring if a property has been empty for over a year, if code enforcement or other agency, provides an inspection of the premises before restoring water and power.

Both councils will explore cost-sharing ventures for items such as heavy-duty equipment rentals or for bulk fertilizer purchases from suppliers for a lower rate.  Affordable housing is another common element, especially when both communities are trying to foster business expansion and development when there are no houses on the market in an attainable price range.  Lamar Community College and Otero Junior College are participating in the State Attorney General’s Coepper Project where the school’s building trades students refurbish abandoned houses to sell to the general public and repurpose those proceeds to other local houses in need.

Regarding tourism attraction, Prowers County offers a long-lived High Plains Snow Goose Festival every February during migrating season and closer to the ground, La Junta is development a similar event, but focusing on the annual tarantula migration in the fall.  That event is set for October 8th.

Following the buffet luncheon, both councils took a bus tour to showcase some of the economic and infrastructure improvements around Lamar.
By Russ Baldwin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Filed Under: City of LamarConsumer IssuesCountyEmploymentFeaturedTourismUtilities

Tags:

About the Author: