Food, Fees, Fairs, Funding, Finance

Lamar Chamber President Axel Thurner, Chana Reed, Michele Girard

What began as a concern over health rules for Dutch oven cooking enthusiasts and an occasional community barbecue has stirred up the pot and got several groups in Prowers County simmering over how they conduct business. 

An informational meeting between Michele Girard of Prowers County Public Health and Environment and representatives of the County Fair Board and Lamar Chamber of Commerce on February 15 continued into the Prowers County Commissioners meeting on February 16.  There seem to be more rules and regulations in commercial food sales than ingredients in a Mulligan Stew.  That has raised the concerns for folks in the community who organize the Chamber’s Lamar Days celebration, the Wild West BBQ competition, the Sand and Sage Fair Board’s August community BBQ, fund raising food sales for 4-H groups and local caterers who do their cooking on the road and church and civic groups who sell food to raise funds. 

Chamber secretary, Chana Reed, attended both meetings, asking for the assembled group, if some leeway couldn’t be established on meeting the schedules, costs and paperwork associated with some of the rule changes.  Girard offered a number of scenarios to the barrage of questions she encountered at the February 15 meeting, providing a number of guidelines and pamphlets that covered various situations, online health classes and license and application costs.  Part of the problem is that there are so many situations for when a food license is or is not required.  Is food pre-packaged or not, will hazardous foods be prepared; egg salad in the summer, versus a loaf of baked bread, is a group non-profit, is it a church fund-raiser, will food be served where it’s cooked or transported off premises to another location, is the equipment compatible with state health standards, how many people require a food safety card at a food sale event, when do you need an annual license of $255 or just a $25 vendor application.  Girard said she’d do most of the paperwork once an event coordinator submits the basic application. 

Toni McPherson expressed a concern that some vendors who attend the May Wild West BBQ may have to purchase a $255 vendor’s license, a requirement that may have some avoid the annual event due to the cost.  Reed was concerned that some food vendors let her know only days before an event such as  Oktoberfest that they’ll be attending, when Girard requires two weeks to complete her paperwork on such events.   Everyone was concerned that vendors will start to shun Lamar and the county for any future events if it becomes too costly or difficult to set up shop. 

Girard stated she will work with all the groups to be accommodating, but she believed some areas can’t be circumvented, especially on matters of public health and licensing.  She also stated that she can’t be everywhere all the time, as she is responsible for four counties in southeast Colorado.  “If I see there’s a problem, I can give you time to correct the situation,” she said Wednesday evening.  The commissioners said they are bound to follow state health codes, but will set up a meeting with Jackie Brown and Keith Siemsen from the county health department, Girard, and community groups to develop a clear cut course of action that will serve as guidelines for future eating events.

By Russ Baldwin


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