Mow and Tow for City Weeds and Cars

The thorny issue of amending ordinances pertaining to weeds, junk cars and mowing lots took up most of the city council’s work session this past Monday night, September 26. City Administrator Bill Pfeilsticker said there are 63 abandoned properties in Lamar. If you couple that with houses that are for sale and unoccupied, and couple those numbers with home owners who just don’t care how their yards look, you get a lengthy list. Code enforcement for simply mowing weeds to an acceptable level in Lamar is turning into a costly business, and the council reviewed their options regarding how the ordinances pertaining to unsightly properties, work. Mayor Pro-Tem Skip Ruedeman brought the matter to the council’s attention after being advised of the situation faced by Code Enforcement Officers in Lamar. Officer Ken Davis said the ordinances favor those who hem and haw about taking care of tall weeds in their yards. A land owner can stretch the court process as much as 90 or more days before the city can subject him to a maximum $300 fine, plus cost of cleaning the yard. Pfeilsticker said unfortunately there are residents who just don’t care and take no pride in keeping their yard barely acceptable. Regarding the ordinances, Pfeilsticker remarked, “There’s a lot of stumbling blocks in here.” Davis said the 7am to 5pm weekday schedule for the Enforcement officers don’t allow a period to catch most folks at home. “We can leave a violation notice attached to their door, but they’ll just claim they never saw it, or the wind blew it away,” he added, “And then we have to start the process all over again.” He also mentioned that some owners will respond on the 29th day of their 30 day notice and get granted an extension from the municipal court. “What we need are some ordinances that take less time and have more teeth,” said Lamar Police Chief Gary McCrea. Linda Williams, City Clerk, said that even if the city manages to attach a lien to a homeowner for their fines, once the ownership title has been fully researched, it can take as much as four years in a foreclosure case before the city sees any compensation. Councilman PJ Wilson suggested that even with that long a delay, after a while, the money will start to come in to the city on an annual basis.

The city is also between a rock and a financial hard place if it decides to take condemnation action against a derelict property. City Code Inspection Officer Bobby Ward said an asbestos inspection and clean up is costly. “The lowest I’ve ever seen has been $7,000,” he told the council. The city has 75 pages of Code Enforcement ordinances guiding them, some of which seem to work against each other in the same paragraph as was pointed out by Administrator Pfeilsticker. The council said they’d review the means by which some of the delays could be eliminated to generate faster action against the code breakers. Junk vehicles is another problem faced by the city. Officials can legally tow away junked vehicles on the street after notice has been given, but must give a 30 day warning notice to those vehicles that are on private property.

The Lamar Redevelopment Authority Board readjusted the amount paid to Prowers County as reimbursement for the 2011 Incentive Agreement payment to the Holiday Inn Express. The board ratified a phone poll authorizing the adjusted payment from $10,337.66 to $10,636.63. The adjustment took into consideration the motel’s parking lot. Only the motel property had been included in the first assessment by the Prowers County Assessor. This is a first time payment to the County by the Board as compensation for the County’s contribution to the Holiday Inn Express for an economic development incentive when the motel was being built on North Main Street in Lamar. The Board discussed subsequent annual payments to the County, but favored making an annual assessment on the matter.

The Lamar Chamber of Commerce was granted a special event permit by the council to conduct a beer garden on city property this coming weekend, October 1, for the annual Chamber Oktoberfest. The beer garden will be open from 11am to 10pm at the Enchanted Forest.

A public hearing date for a liquor license request from the Cow Palace Inn was set for October 24. Palace Holdings LLC, the new owner of the Cow Palace Inn has applied for a Hotel and Restaurant liquor license.

Gary Oxley was approved by the city council to serve on the Planning and Zoning Commission for a five-year term, expiring February 1, 2016.

The council’s monthly informal breakfast meeting will be held at Rancher’s Restaurant from 7am to 8am on Wednesday, October 5.

The annual lease agreement between the city of Lamar and Sage Services at the SOS Center on East Olive Street was approved. Sage Services uses the kitchen and dining hall to provide weekly noonday meals for senior citizens. The new contract will be in effect until December 31, 2014.

Wayne Scofield from Garden City, Kansas was the high bidder for 107 head of cattle owned by the city of Lamar. The cattle had been put out to bid and Scofield, at $27,100, was the highest bidder of the five submitted to the city. Bids ranged between Schfield’s top figure, and were as low as $1,001. The city had been keeping the cattle corralled in a wire fence constructed adjacent to the city’s two water tanks south of town. The city acquired the cattle from Tony Hall this past spring after it had been determined that two calves from his heard died. The cattle had been grazing on city owned land in the vicinity of the water tanks. It was believed that the cattle ingested lead that had come from the water tanks exterior paint. Samples from the tanks showed the water was in compliance with the state’s safe drinking water standards. The remaining herd was moved away from the site that Hall had leased from the city and tested for lead paint contamination or other source that may have caused the deaths. Once it was determined that the remaining cattle posed no health hazards, the city was able to put the herd to bid. In compensation, the city purchased the herd of cattle from Hall. City Administrator Bill Pfeilsticker said the city had received the check from Scofield, and was being moved. Apparently the cattle herd was found to be healthy, as it could not be transported across state lines unless the animals passed a state inspection.

A resolution for improvements to the Lamar Airport was approved by the council. The Colorado Aeronautical Board awarded a grant to the city for $430,000 with 90% from CDOT and the remainder from the city, totaling $43,000 of which $7,000 will be in cash. The funding will provide for a new apron surface and a concrete aircraft tie-down area. The city will build a fuel containment structure at the fuel farm and build concrete trench drains to control surface runoff between hangars. Carder Construction was the lone bidder for the non-city work at $188,424.

At the recommendation of the Planning and Zoning Commission, the council approved an ordinance to rezone property between 1610 South Main Street to 1800 South Main Street from C-3 Commercial to C-2 Commercial. A public hearing was held on the matter earlier this summer. The land is bordered by the Ft Bent Canal to the south and the edge of the First Baptist Church parking lot to the north.

by Russ Baldwin


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