Fee Structure for City Services Discussed by Council

Cost of services provided by the Lamar Police Department was discussed during the city council work session, Monday, July 23.  Lamar Police Chief Gary McCrea described how some services, such as fingerprinting, VIN inspections and funeral escorts have been offered in the past without any reimbursement.  McCrea told the council that charging fees for these types of services are a growing trend in law enforcement agencies across the country, and Lamar’s financial expectations are no different. 

McCrea listed a fee scale for various services, comparable to other communities in the state and southeast Colorado.  He recommended a fee of either $5 or $10 for non-criminal fingerprinting services which would help support the city’s SWAT team.  The LPD did 208 VIN inspections in 2011 at no charge.  A basic $5 fee would generate $1,040 which would be used by The Citizens Police Academy & Community Relations.  The Sheriff’s department does inspections as well and even car dealerships can conduct them.  Sixty-two funeral escorts were provided in 2011 at no cost to local providers.  Chief McCrea said the escorts necessitate using additional officers and vehicles for between fifteen minutes to over an hour.  He said an estimated $30 fee per hour for two off-duty officers would generate $3,720 a year to apply to the city’s general fund.  One other suggestion included either a $5 or $10 surcharge on municipal court cases for traffic citations.  McCrea said the city issued 812 citations so far this year.  Following the example of other communities, the city could spend approximately $8,870 on police training each year on a $10 fee. 

The city council was in general agreement that the fee structure deserved study, although Mayor Stagner said he felt fees for fingerprinting and VIN inspections may not be needed.  City Clerk, Linda Williams also addressed the need to bring city business license fees up to date, as the last increases were at least two years ago.  The business sales tax license will increase from $8 to $10 in the near future. 

The council also took up the matter of a water undercharge to the Parks and Recreation Department since 2004.  Chris Sandoval, Lamar Water and Wastewater Director told the council this has amounted to $80,000 less than what the department should have been charged for their water use.  They were undercharged, by a factor of ten, for the gallon rate for an acre foot of water.  Sandoval said the Parks and Recreation Department would not be charged for water from Ft. Bent Ditch or Project water from the Ditch up to 24.67 acre feet per year, but it would be charged the market rate for potable water after that point.  The council asked if that figure would have to be adjusted once the other two ball fields at the sports complex were completed and Sandoval and Rick Akers, Leisure Services Director agreed it would probably increase proportionally to the water used on the current six fields in the Department.  The ballfields are now plumbed to use either potable or non-potable water.  Some restrictions may be placed on water use by the Department should the city enter to an extreme drought situation, but Sandoval said the city’s water supply remains in good shape at this time. 

Dewayne Schroeder is replacing Chuck Bradburn on the city’s Water Board.  Bradburn turned in his resignation on June 7, 2012.  Schroeder will fill his unexpired term to February 1, 2016.  Schroeder is a retired water resource engineer.

 The council appointed member Anne Marie Crampton to represent the city on the Policy Committee of the Colorado Municipal League, to which Lamar belongs.    Members serve a one-year period and attend at least two meetings a year. 

Colorado Equipment was the low bidder out of three, on a John Deere Tractor to replace a broken tractor use for the Lamar Ballfields.  Rick Akers, City Leisure Services Director explained that the old unit was equipped with a front end loader, three point hitch and a mid-mount mower.  Akers said repairs on the broken unit would be around $9,000.  While not in the city budget, funding is available from the Conservation Trust Fund.    The low bid was $19,778.89. 

The council passed a resolution supporting a grant application to cover the costs of a local government planning grant from GOCO, Great Outdoors Colorado, for the Valco Ponds Park and Recreation area.  The city, in partnership with the Division of Parks and Wildlife, is requesting $58,005 in GOCO funds for the proposed park’s master plan for the 200 acre site which will be deeded to the city from the owners of Valco.  The City of Lamar will donate $9,335 for in-kind services, coupled with a $5,000 donation each from Prowers County and the Division of Wildlife.  Total cost of the funding for the master plan is $77,340. 

A proposed $2 per day Room Tax had been presented to the city council for consideration at their last session.  That is now tabled, probably until 2013, by the council and the group initiating the tax until they are able to complete additional groundwork needed to bring the proposal before city voters.  Pat Palmer and Shawna Hodge, the Lamar Main Street Coordinator, had asked that the initiative be approved by the council to be placed on the November 2012 ballot.  The request may be brought before the council next year following development of a governing board and regulations as to how the funds will be applied to downtown economic development.  Mayor Roger Stagner stated that the council was in general support of the concept, but believed a more developed presentation to the voters was needed before the initiative would be approved at election time.  He stated that some local motel owners were not convinced the flat $2 fee would be the best approach due to the motel room rates varying between $40 and $120 per night in Lamar. 

City Water Superintendent Chris Sandoval informed the council that water main work will start this week along West Maple Street, from North 9th Street towards the east.  He said there are some unused funds in the water department budget that will be applied to replacing old water mains which will be replaced one block at a time.  Sandoval said all of the mains will be placed on the north side of Maple Street instead of the old pathways which cross under the road.  It will be a lengthy project and the streets will be patched through the fall and winter and receive a permanent surface starting next spring.  Some traffic will have to be rerouted while the project is underway.

 In other action, council woman Bev Haggard suggested the council consider discussion for mid-year raises for city employees.  The council agreed and a work session has been set for August 27.  City Treasurer, Linda Rohlman said she would compile figures for the council by that date.  The monthly informal city council breakfast will be held August 1 from 7 to 8am at the Cow Palace Inn.  The Parks & Recreation Department is co-sponsoring the annual Ice Cream Social at Willow Creek Park beginning at 6pm on Thursday, August 2.  Free Swimming at the Lamar Pool to the first 400 persons will start at 7pm.  The parade for this year’s Sand and Sage Fair will be held at 10am on Saturday, August 11.  This year’s fair theme is Boots and Barbed Wire.  City Administrator Steven Rabe noted that Police Chief McCrea and PJ Wilson are working on revised parking and code enforcement regulations and will have a presentation for the council later this year.

By Russ Baldwin


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