Motel Lodger’s Tax Proposed to Lamar City Council for November Ballot

Lamar voters should decide this November to approve a proposed lodgers or pillow tax on motel room rentals.   As outlined during the city council work session on Monday, July 9, by Shawna Hodge, Lamar Main Street Director, and Pat Palmer, President of the Prowers Lodging Tax Panel, the proposed tax will levy a simple $2 fee on each motel or Bed & Breakfast room rented in the City of Lamar.   The fee, Hodge explained, will earn approximately $210,000 a year based on a consistent 50% occupancy rate.  The funds will provide for salaries, tourism related capital expenditures and help promote and develop downtown businesses, attract conventions, sporting events and large group meetings to come to Lamar.  The fees will be collected by the Lamar City Clerk.  If the initiative is approved by the council, it will appear on the November general election ballot. 

Time is a factor.  The council needs to approve the ordinance initiative on its first reading by the July 23 council meeting to meet the July 27 certification deadline to have it placed on the November ballot.  Cost is a factor.  Approximately $24,000 will be required to have the question put on the ballot for City of Lamar voters.  Because it’s a presidential election and a mail-in vote, said interim City Administrator, Steven Rabe, the cost is almost double that paid out when the Lodging Panel Tax question went before the voters.   

“Once this goes through, the fees won’t be touched until January 2014,” explained Hodge.  “We’ll let the fund increase before we start to use them, and we’ll be able to pay back the cost of the ballot to the city,” she added.  The city council will have to front the funds to the group to cover election costs, win or lose. 

Hodge added that the fees will provide for the current Lamar Main Street program to aid the city to remain a Colorado Main Street community.  It will also serve to provide funding for the Lamar Partnership group, now supported by the city, which will see its funding end in 2013.  Hodge said the current funding, “doesn’t give enough flexibility in our budget to do anything with it.  We can do little things, but it’s not enough to make any sort of impact.” 

Council member Anne Marie Crampton suggested seeking a different term for the fee.  “Lodger’s tax may not be the best choice because of the association with the lodging tax already in place,” she said.  It took two tries before the Lodging Tax was approved by voters, due mostly to confusion on who pays.  “No one pays the $2 unless you’re renting a room, no matter how many persons are staying in one,” explained Pat Palmer.  He added, “This is similar to the La Junta tax, and for several years now, they’ve been able to pay for an events coordinator to help build their economy.” 

With regard to who decides how the fees are spent, and on what, Hodge said, “We haven’t really made those decisions yet.  There’ll be an advisory council, and we’re hoping that council could be the Lamar Partnership advisory board.  We haven’t worked out all the fine tuning yet.”  Palmer added, “We’d like someone from the city council and perhaps two motel owners on it and it needs to be tied to people who are on Main Street, whether through their business or a property owner.”  Hodge said the funds can be set up by percentages, with 20% used for convention recruitment, or another 20% can be used for Main Street improvements, for example.  She added that a volunteer group will be circulating a petition to present to the council and will be speaking with local motel owners to explain how the $2 fee will be applied. 

Prowers County Fair Board members, Diane Pool and Cindy Bennett asked the council for a financial commitment to help defray the purchase of meat costs for the annual Sand and Sage BBQ.  Bennett said, “Depending on donations, we might pay only $800 to $900 in a year, but when we don’t the costs do go up, sometimes to $2,900 for the yearly event.”  She added that now that there are no local pork producers who can contribute, the meals for both nights are all beef that has to be paid for.  Pool said there aren’t complete records of who shares the cost of the food.  Usually it’s been split between the county and the city over the years.  The council voted to authorize up to $3,000 in contributions from the annual budget for future reference. 

Trevor Choat, County E911 Supervisor addressed the council on an expanded Code Red alert call system and how it will impact the community.  Test calls were made to subscribers on Monday, July 9, which advised residents who opt in for the warnings, to re-register to fine tune the type of warnings they wish to receive.  He explained that in the past, ‘all calls’ would run slower because of the volume of calls being placed through the county.  National Weather Service calls for future alerts could be made more geographically specific so they would tailor a call for only a certain section of the county.  He said this would speed the calls because there wouldn’t be so many made at one time.  The cost for the Code Red Weather Warning will be an additional $4,000 a year and the first year has been paid by the county.  He said the future breakdown would reflect the percentages now paid out by the county, the city and the E911 Authority Board.  Residents can upgrade their alert status through the city or county website, plus the one in Holly, or simply call the local dispatch center’s non-emergency line.

Lamar Fire Chief, Marshall Cook introduced the department’s newest engineer,  James Threadgill from Fountain, Colorado.  Cook said Threadgill offers 21 years of experience, ten of which was spent with the Department of Defense.  Threadgill said he served for one year on Cheyenne Mountain in, “the cave”, referring to the underground national defense system, and remarked that it was a very different experience for him.  He began his duties with the city, today, July 10. 

“Despite the heat, the city’s well system has been holding its own,” according to City Water Supervisor, Chris Sandoval.  “The recent rains have helped recharge the system, and even today, we’ve seen little water use in the community.”  Sandoval said he would conduct a study of the amount of water consumed in the community and offer recommendations to the council for any action on future water restrictions.  The city has a six stage, water restriction policy, the first of which is simple voluntary curtailment of excessive water use for residences. 

A public meet-n-greet for the five city administrator candidates will be held on Thursday, July 12 from 5pm to 7pm at the Lamar Community Building, multi-purpose room and final interviews will be conducted with the council on Friday.  The finalists are:  Carlo Pilgrim of Boothbay, Maine, Fred Ventresco of Wilmington, Vermont, Eric Strahl of Menominee, Michigan, John Sutherland of Santa Fe, New Mexico and David Varley of Delta, Colorado. 

National Coatings, Inc. from Denver, Colorado was the low bidder out of three submitted to recoat the wet well at the city’s new wastewater lift station.  Chemical erosion had begun to damage an interior wall at the station.  The 1,000 square foot section will be rehabilitated and recoated at a cost of $30,000, considerably lower than the next two bids received.  Water Supervisor Sandoval estimated it would take three months to complete the project with no interruption to water services to the city.  The council approved a resolution appointing Sandoval as the authorized signatory for the City of Lamar ARRA loan agreements with the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority. 

The Lamar City Council will hold their monthly informal breakfast session on Wednesday, July 11 from 7am to 8am at the Rancher’s Restaurant.  Councilman Ruedeman reminded the public of the need for host families for an August baseball tournament for 14 year olds.  If any family can provide accommodation, meals and transportation during the tournament, to contact the Lamar Chamber of Commerce at 336-4379.

By Russ Baldwin


Filed Under: BusinessChamber/Local BusinessCommissionerscommunityCountyEconomyEnergyEntertainmentEventsFeaturedHollyLamarRecreationTourismUtilitiesWeather


About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Comments are closed.