Council Questions Need for Train-/-Bus Depot

New concrete sidewalk north of Lamar Welcome Center - Photo by Russ Baldwin

Known as the Multi Modal System, the Lamar City Council reviewed the increased construction costs of what would be an ARRA funded depot located east of the Lamar Chamber of Commerce offices. With little guaranteed return on an expensive investment, the council decided against taking any action on the FASTER grant and allowed it to slip by for the time being. There were a lot of cons and few pros optioned at the Monday night council meeting. The project is under CDOT to erect a 1,000 square foot waiting room building for bus and train travelers. What was a $120,000 project has become, according to city administrator, Bill Pfeilsticker, an almost $600,000 project, with the city’s share inflating to $120,000, not the originally stated $20,000. Pfeilsticker said there would be little in-kind services the city could contribute as its share, and the city land involved was probably not valued at that level. The city could also bear the brunt of heat, light, water, sanitation, janitorial services and staffing the building, as neither Amtrak nor Greyhound had offered to share in upkeep to this point. The council deliberated that as most ticket sales could be conducted either online at once, or when boarding a bus or train, there would be no need for a ticket booth at the building, which would basically provide rest rooms, snack machines and chairs and benches for people waiting to continue their journey. The city would also have to provide for architect fees and an environmental impact study. Pfeilsticker said the city’s funding would be a reimbursement grant in that, the city provided the funding up front and was compensated at a later date, putting a drain on cash reserves and the annual budget. The council agreed they did not see a financial benefit to the city for constructing the building.

With no opposition voiced to two public hearings involving sales of alcohol, the council voted in favor of an application for temporary modification of premises for Jay Gruber, owner of the Buzzard’s Roost in Lamar and an Eagles Lodge fish fry. Gruber plans to barricade a portion of West Hickory Street to hold an annual outdoor concert on September 17 and 18 called the Road Jam. Lamar Police Chief Gary McCrea said there were no problems during last year’s Jam and only one or two situations involving a police appearance at the bar over several months duration. Gruber said he’ll employ extra staff for crowd control and no one under 21 will be allowed inside the fencing. The outdoor music performances will move inside the bar each night at midnight. The council also approved a special event permit for the Fraternal Order of Eagles #3898 in Lamar for an August 6 fish fry in the rear parking lot. The beer tent will be open to the public and steps will be taken to prevent any minors from entering. Bill Wootten, who spoke on behalf of the Eagles, said the fish fry is maintaining the traditional Game and Fish Club’s annual event which has also been held at other locations around the city in past years.

The council approved the annual agreement between the city police department and Lamar High School for annual law enforcement and security services during high school events. Chief McCrea said he had spoken with Superintendent Tecklenburg on the matter and the city has decreased the hourly rate from $40 to $30 with no opposition from the school. The city council okayed a new lease agreement for a Xerox copier, replacing a six-year-old model that city administrator secretary Brenda Van Campen said was on its last legs. An intergovernmental agreement between the city and town of Holly was approved for annual services for building inspections by Lamar’s Chief Building Official, Bobby Ward. The current charge is $40 per hour and 55 cents a mile, corresponding to the IRS designated rate of reimbursement for travel expenses. Holly adopted the International Building Codes following the tornado from four years ago. The council approved the city treasurer to assess the city’s Self Insurance Fund in varying amounts from the General Fund, Light and Power, Water Fund, Sanitation, E-9-9-1 and Ambulance Fund. The balance comes to $120,000 which has been taken out of the General Fund to cover city employee insurance costs. The council agreed to the contributions as this time, in light of the fact that no city employee has received a raise in the last two years. The city contributes 75% of the cost with the employee taking up the balance. Treasurer Rohlman said there was no way to anticipate increased medical costs and the fund has fluctuated from as much as a surplus of $300,000 in some years, to increased demands on the funds this year. The council approved first reading of an ordinance amending the city charter regarding the manner in which city bills will be posted online at the city’s website and at the city clerk’s office. The wording of the charter needed amending to move the matter forward for a November vote. The city is currently posting such information on its new website. The November vote of the people will determine if the information will continue to be posted in The Lamar Ledger. The move to discontinue the newspaper posting, if approved, will save the city around $300 to $360 a month in fees. The executive session was not held as the city attorney was not present to offer legal advice on a damage claim against the city.

The meeting of the Lamar Redevlopment Authority Board was not held. No action was taken as there still has been no action on a change request from the Prowers Hospital District on the intergovernmental agreement with the Board. A subordination clause has been a sticking point for the district and a similar clause has not been resolved between the Authority Board the County Commissioners. It’s hoped that a future meeting among all parties can resolve the issue.

In other action a tentative date for a county/city meeting was selected, pending the county commissioners’ schedules. Councilman Jim Larrick said he’d been informed by the Division of Wildlife that the Valco pond has been stocked with some game and forage fish and the city is now on a regular stocking rotation with the Division. Councilwoman Bev Haggard recapped the recent Ports to Plains board meeting she attended in Clayton, New Mexico and suggested Lamar put a bid in to host a similar meeting in either January or the spring of 2012. She said the Ports to Plains Corridor had recently been completed between Dalhart, Texas and Raton, New Mexico and work is beginning on the Corridor around Hugo, Colorado. Lisa Nolder, PCDI executive director, briefed the council on potential industries moving into the Lamar area, based on some business inquiries she’s addressed. She also recapped the latest developments regarding the next possible use for the Ft. Lyon Prison in Bent County once it closes next March. Over 245 people are expected to be laid off at the prison site. The city’s monthly morning breakfast will be held Wednesday, August 3 from 7 to 8am at Taco Johns. The public is encouraged to attend.

by Russ Baldwin

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