Lamar City Council Names New Member

Judge Stutler Administers the Oath of Office to Jenkins

Judge Stutler Administers the Oath of Office to Jenkins

The newest member of the Lamar City Council was approved to replace Skip Ruedeman’s Ward 2 seat following his resignation.  Following an interview, the council selected Gerry Jenkins to fill the remainder of Ruedeman’s term.  Jenkins has been employed by Rocky Mountain SER for a number of years as well as a member of Voces Unidas and has been active with the Lamar Eagles Lodge.  Mayor Roger Stagner said the council will select a new Mayor Pro-Tem at its next meeting on Tuesday, May 27, as Ruedeman had served in that capacity and a replacement is required.  Judge Larry Stutler administered the oath of office to Jenkins at the beginning of the council session.

Another replacement was announced with City Administrator, John Sutherland, mentioning to the council that Brian Long will become the new resident engineer from CDOT, replacing Paul Westhoff, who retired from that service earlier this spring.  Sutherland said Long is known to the council and community as he had worked with Westhoff for a number of years.

Rick Robbins, manager of Colorado Mills, addressed the council during the open discussion portion of the meeting, asking members to consider the on-going impact that the Lamar Repowering Project has had on his business, several other local high power consumption businesses in town and other businesses and households in Lamar.  The coal fired plant has not been in operation for over two years and is now shut down until 2023 by a court order relating to air quality emissions and the inability of the plant to operate at full capacity.  Lamar and related ARPA member cities have been purchasing power off the grid for the past several years and will continue to do so for at least the next nine years per contract agreements with power suppliers.

Robbins laid out some basic power consumption statistics for his business and several others, that have approached ARPA, Arkansas River Power Authority and the Lamar Utilities Board in the past, regarding the high utility premiums.  “Colorado Mills is currently using 250 kilowatts of power per month because of drought conditions when we normally purchase about 400 kW,” he explained.   He stated that Colorado Beef just west of Lamar purchases 250kW a month and the Cow Palace Inn buys about 100kW in the same period as well as the Lamar Truck Plaza.

Robbins stated that Colorado Beef has reduced its staff by 20 persons, “Twenty families that are no longer in Lamar, and Colorado Beef is considering installing generators,” he explained.  He said if those generators come on line, that’s equal to losing 250 households that would purchase power.  He added that his employees are paying from $50 to $150 more a month than they should be for their utility costs.  Robbins estimated that ,”If you take that $50 as a low end average and multiply that by 3,000 household meters in Lamar, it comes to $150,000 a month, or $1.8 million a year that leaves this community with zero benefit.  It doesn’t come back to anybody.”  He explained that the Lamar Truck Plaza and Rodeway Cow Palace Inn are converting to LED lighting as a cost saving measure and his offices at Colorado Mills are also being converted.

Robbins implied that with these types of power cutbacks, the only thing that will happen is rates will continue to climb.  He also noted that when he and these business representatives spoke before an ARPA meeting last year in Springfield, it was noted that part of the five year ARPA plan included two rate increases while utility usage remained basically static during that period.  Robbins asked the council to not delay for their recommendation to try to fix the problem of the Lamar Repowering Project. He said, “Don’t let the solution be, ‘it’ll be over in thirty years’.  I’d rather bleed once now than bleed for the next thirty years.”

The City of Lamar conducted a CDOT equipment purchase project, adding to the city’s fleet of work vehicles or replacing some outright through an auction bid process.  Eighteen pieces of equipment were purchased for $26,290.  The items were budget-approved and includes dump trucks, highway line striper, a tandem dump truck, several smaller dump trucks, several four wheel drive pickup trucks, a grader, loader and a tractor.

The council followed up on earlier discussion regarding private airplane hangar development agreements with interested individual aircraft owners.  Two areas of interest were altered including a land lease rate per square foot for separate parcels of land for the hangars.  The agreed upon price is $0.14 per square foot.  One provision allows the current developers to be entitled to lesser rates per square foot if that lower rate is offered to future developers.  Discussions also focused on insurance with the result that contract language now requires the owner to have insurance coverage that names the city as an additional loss payee.  The council reviewed the changes as noted by the city attorney and approved the agreement.

In other airport developments, the council approved an extension of the original CDAG grant for the apron rehabilitation project, requested by Jviation, the city’s airport engineering advisory company.  The original grant, as explained by City Public Works Director, Pat Mason,  was set to expire on June 30, 2014 and although construction would be completed by May 30, there is still some concrete strength testing that must be conducted to insure property curing and mix designs were met.  The contract was extended for one year to June 30, 2015.

Work is underway on next year’s city budget and the council approved the work calendar for a series of meetings and due dates for various departments including the council and city treasurer.  The first workshop will be held on July 14, consolidated budget recommendations should be presented to the council by September 1 and the official introduction of the 2015 budget will be ready by October 3.

The Lamar City Council approved the appointment of Earl Hawkins to replace Dennis Leathers on the Building Codes Variance Board.  Leather’s term expired October 1, 2012 and Hawkins’ term will expire in 2017.    The council ratified two telephone polls on separate issues; the first allowed Shuburt Shows Carnival to set up in Willow Creek Park May 9 and 10 and the second approved an increase for the annual Main Street Mini Grant from $6,000 to $7,000.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: BusinesscommunityEconomyEmploymentEnergyFeaturedHot TopicsLamarProwers CountyUtilities

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