City Council Deals with Green Weeds and Red Tape

City of Lamar 2013

Above average summer rains have meant above average weed growth around Lamar, prompting city council discussion this past Monday night about a speedier resolution to getting absentee or lazy homeowners to cut the weeds on their property.  Weed growth has been moving faster than the paperwork needed to control them.  The Lamar City Council is looking at an amended ordinance that slashes the waiting period to get at the weeds from four weeks to 48 hours.  The property owner still gets the bill for the city crews weed removal services.  City Attorney, Garth Nieschburg, said he will propose amending the weed ordinance that will allow the city administrator to declare a neglected property a health problem and can post an emergency services notice at the offending site.  It states that if the problem is not corrected by the homeowner within 48 hours, the city will mow the weeds and bill the property owner.  There are about 256 abandoned property sites in Lamar.   

The amended ordinance won’t be restricted to only weeds.  Lamar Police Chief Gary McCrea told the council that there were nine junk cars on just two property sites last week that had to be removed before crews could begin to mow and clear the property of weeds.  “We took over the job of code enforcement in the city about four years ago,” he explained.  “As an example of what we face, since the start of the year, we had 169 calls for animal control and in the same period, 729 calls for property code enforcement.  This takes up a lot of time, as we’re required to do a recheck on all of them, so it doubles our efforts,” McCrea added.  Code Enforcement Officer, Ken Davis, stated, “A lot of the problem is just a lack of property pride in our residents.  We get a lot of repeat violators through the summer who just don’t care how they property impacts their neighborhood or city!”  He said some fines and fees would have been a lot less for a property owner if they had just gone out the mowed their yards themselves or hired someone to keep it clean.  The city council will review the changes submitted by Nieschburg and is expected to act on it at the next council meeting.  On a similar note, Administrator Sutherland announced a city wide clean up day will be scheduled for October 19th this fall. 

The council agenda was amended to provide updated information cancelling the 2013 Coordinated Election on the part of the city this November.  Four petitions were submitted for four available seats on the City Council.  City Clerk Linda Williams told the council that as there are not more candidates than seats to be voted on in November, including write-in candidates, there is no need for a city based election this year.  Following the November 5 election, Williams will declare all candidates elected to their intended council seats.  Those who were up for re-election are Kirk Crespin for Ward 1, Oscar Riley for Ward 2 and Ron Cook for Ward 3.  He will replace Keith Nidey who is not seeking another term on the council.  Roger Stagner, as Mayor, is an at-large candidate. 

The council discussed with Lamar Fire Chief Marshall Cook, a request by Fred Sherwood to reduce the cost of fees for ambulance standby at the LCC College Rodeo.  Cook said the request has been made for the past several years.  The current fee schedule is for $190 for the first three hours of an event and $45 per hour after the first three.  Cook said Sherwood is asking that the actual ambulance fees be eliminated and charging only the pay for the ambulance crew drivers.  This would put the standby fee at $90 for the first three hours and $35 per hour afterwards.  The council approved the discount for the next LCC rodeo October 4-6 this year. 

A bid for replacement of Runway End Identifier Lights (REIL) at the Lamar Municipal Airport was approved by the council for Electrical Excellence at $155,978.  Two bids were received for the replacement project.  New electrical wiring and conduit work is included in the cost.  The city will provide inkind construction work for its contribution. 

The city’s Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Department will be restructured with two title changes in the organization.  Currently, according to Director Rick Akers, the organization chart includes a Parks Supervisor and a Cemetery Caretaker.  The new chart eliminates the Supervisor and Caretaker, changing each title to Foreman.  The change will save costs and when employees are replaced, they will be hired at a lower pay scale as Maintenance Workers not Seniors. 

The council approved a decision to accept a communications trailer from Prowers County.  The revised agenda item was back on the council’s list from the last meeting and approved this past Monday. Mayor Roger Stagner explained that the new agreement calls for the city to share the command and communications trailer with other municipal jurisdictions in the county.  The city will equip and upgrade the trailer, working from the operations budget for the Lamar Fire and Ambulance Department, while the county retains ownership and provides insurance coverage.  Lamar Fire Chief Marshall Cook said it would take several years to completely equip the trailer, but it is currently serviceable.  Cook said the trailer can serve in several different capacities, including a rehabilitation center for firefighters who need to recover from some of the heat and smoke intense conditions in which they work. 

Jordan and Miranda Kemp

Jordan and Miranda Kemp

Fire Chief Cook introduced two new Fire Engineers to the Council.  Jordan Kemp has been on volunteer status for the past year and is being brought in as a full time employee.  Jeff Newman hails from the Hasty area and has a diversified background in emergency response.  Both men were pinned by their wives.  

Felicia and Jeff Newman

Felicia and Jeff Newman

Council members ratified an earlier phone poll to spend no more than $20,000 to repair and rebuild a portion of Merchant’s Park.  A safety issue is being corrected for a drop off from the infield going to the outfield.  The item was presented in earlier budgets, but never approved as funding was limited.  According to Parks and Recreation Director, Rick Akers, the cost will be paid out of savings from the swimming pool budget. 

City Administrator, John Sutherland, noted some future events taking place in the city:  A memorial flag raising will be held this Wednesday at 7:30am at the Lamar Library to note the lives lost on 9/11/ 2001.  A free, streaming video explaining Health Equity and the Affordable Care Act will be held Thursday, September 12 at the County Annex from 11:30am to 1pm.  RSVP’s are requested.  The Second Annual Tri-State 9-11 Remembrance will be held in Lamar on Saturday, the 14th with a 10am parade beginning at the downtown railroad crossing.  Volunteers are welcome that day to the Northside Park on the 14th to help erect playground equipment, beginning at 7am.  A CDOT public hearing on the Reliever Route will be held Thursday, September 19 from 5pm to 7pm at the County Annex.  That will be followed by a joint budget hearing between the City and County also at the Annex.  Pedal the Plains will be held September 20 -21 in Lamar.  The City wide fall clean up date will take place on Saturday, October 19 this year. 

The council held Executive Sessions to discuss and develop strategy for negotiations regarding the City Treasurer position and for negations regarding shared expenses between the City and the County.

by Russ Baldwin



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