Prowers County Commissioners Work Session November 14

At the work session of Nov. 14, 2023, the Prowers County Commissioners heard reports from several speakers. Present for the work session were Commissioners Wendy Buxton-Andrade, Ron Cook, and Tom Grasmick.  Also present was Prowers County Administrator Mark Westhoff.

First to speak was Cheryl Sanchez, Prowers County Prosperity Director, with the PEP monthly update.  She gave an update about the EPA’s Brownfields Program in the county, stating that approximately 60 locations in the county could possibly be mitigated if found to be contaminated.  She also stated that the department is searching for a company to do their payroll processing.  Sanchez stressed the need for the County to address infrastructure in order to provide more housing, which is critical in order to attract new business and new workers to the area.  According to Sanchez, Lamar listed 140 blighted properties last year.  Also mentioned was the Colorado REDI Grant, whose focus is to create more local jobs and increase job retention.  The potential of working with LCC to provide more training courses was discussed by the Board.   Tallie Harmon, PEP Project Coordinator, told the commissioners they have had an 8% increase in traffic on social media, with a lot of new followers and interactions on their posts.  Ms. Harmon recently met with the former longtime Lamar Theatre owners, Rick and Tina Ross, and said they could serve as an inspiration to potential new businesses who could then perhaps find “their lifelong thing” in our community, as had the Ross’s.

The next presentation to the Board was given by Karl Nyquist and Bradley Johnson with C&A Companies regarding the Prowers Aggregate West Farm Easement.  The purpose of the presentation was to suggest realignment of current land easements to increase the likelihood of the Lamar Reliever Project finally getting approved by CDOT.  The realignment could potentially greatly reduce the cost of the project, as it would eliminate the need to purchase and/or move very large amounts of dirt that the current alignment would not allow.  Commissioner Grasmick stated that he felt the proposal was a “win- win.”  All commissioners were in agreement that the realignment proposal and getting the Reliever Project approved would be in the best interest of the community and were willing to further discuss Mr. Nyquist’s proposal.

The last speaker was Matt Albright, with the Southeast Colorado Economic Development District (SCEDD), which is based out of Pueblo.  SCEDD serves the counties of Baca, Bent, Chaffee, Crowley, Custer, Fremont, Huerfano, Kiowa, Lake, Las Animas, Otero, Pueblo, and Prowers.   Mr. Albright mentioned the Opportunity Now grant and how it could help Southeast Colorado train and retain skilled labor for new projects.  An example he gave as to why it would benefit our area is the LCC Building and Construction Trades department project, which is building new homes on Memorial Drive.  He noted that no local electricians could be found and that one had to be brought in from Colorado Springs.    The Board agreed that training workers locally is a priority.  They stressed to Mr. Albright the need for childcare in our community.   Commissioner Buxton-Andrade stated there were 770 children in our county alone who were eligible for child care and that there were not nearly enough spots for them now.  She stressed to him that he needed to speak with Cornerstone Resource Center in Lamar who could work with him to help improve this situation.  A hot topic with all 3 commissioners is the SCEDD Broadband Initiative and how they felt that our area was being ignored for this project.  Commissioner Cook said that, in his opinion, “there is very little coming here,” and that he felt, “any county east of I-25 doesn’t seem important to you.”  Commissioner Grasmick told him, “Your focus for this project has been more in other areas and you need to refocus on Prowers County.”  The other commissioners were in agreement.  Mr. Albright said he appreciated their concerns and that he would convey these concerns to SCEDD.

By Barbara Crimond

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