New City Administrator Begins Job – Council Will Consider Employee Wage Increases


John Sutherland, Lamar City Administrator

City finances occupied two of the three agenda items on the Lamar City Council work session this past Monday evening, August 27. Sean McTaggert, Spreading Antler Golf Course Superintendent, discussed how the city’s annual $15,000 equipment loan has been rolled over into annual payments for the course’s sprinkler irrigation system. A $90,000, seven year loan is being paid back for an improved watering system, replacing the outdated irrigation operation. McTaggert said the computerized system can be programmed from a handheld device if need be and can independently operate each sprinkler head on most-needed areas and cut back on other sections that are doing well. He added that the timers will now shut off exactly when programmed, but lack of filtration in a part of the system causes some of the heads to stick because of debris build-up, and that’s a problem that will be addressed in the future. He added the loan should be paid off by December, 2018. City Treasurer, Linda Rohlman, stressed the need for written documentation or an IGA so a paper trail exists for future city council members six years from now. 

A city employee salary survey will be conducted to see if revenues allow for an employee salary increase, a follow up to consideration of pay raises at the half year point. Mayor Roger Stagner said the city could authorize a RFP, request for proposal, as recommended by past city administrator, Steven Rabe, and hire a firm to conduct the salary study. The matter was highlighted last council meeting by Bev Haggard when the councilwoman remarked that the city had said it would look at mid-year raises. “If we have any raises at all, I don’t want them to be a percentage raise,” she stressed. “That means the people already getting the highest salaries will automatically get more money if we do an across the board percentage raise. I want to see it based on a certain amount per hour,” she explained. The council will see how much money, if any, could be allocated in the 2013 budget which would be apportioned to the deserving employees. Rabe remarked that there’s no point in doing a survey if there aren’t sufficient funds in the budget, but he felt secure that the city has seen a good year in 2011 and sales tax revenues continue to climb for Lamar this year. 

The council discussed Prowers Medical Center hospital activities in general with CEO Craig Loveless, who replaced James Fairchild this past spring. Loveless was the interim CEO until he was brought on board as the full time Chief Executive Officer. Loveless said he has been on board for the past four months and the hospital now has a full board of directors and finances for PMC are steady. Councilman Skip Ruedeman asked for an explanation of how Obamacare may impact hospital finances. “With Medicaid, we’re operating on a 1% margin above expenses,” Loveless explained. And because of that, the state has increased the number of Medicaid participants, mostly by altering the financial threshold at which a person or family qualifies. “Where it used to be less than $24,000 a yearly income to qualify, it’s now about $30,000 for example,” he said. Loveless added that for the past 15 years, Congress has passed coverage for financial gaps in health care and he doesn’t think anything will change. Regarding Obamacare, “I don’t know. Know one really will know until the system has been operating for a full year, and I expect that there will be adjustments to the system along the way. That’s been how it works in the past.” The one area of concern he expressed was the decreasing payback hospitals will see, diminishing to 95% reimbursement after one year coupled with a general percentage decrease for subsequent years.  Regarding the $1 million HVAC and electric system improvement that had been attached to the defeated bond issue this spring, Loveless said the board is considering ways to fund the needed improvements. “Grants are the hardest to come by for this type of upgrade,” he said, and a bond resolution would take voter approval.  Loveless believed one way to finance improvements would be under a market tax credit. He added, “Patient care is top priority at PMC. If a person has to receive care away from our hospital, and that’s their best medical option, that’s fine.” He said he is working with the board to develop additional specialty physicians at the hospital, as the more services that can be provided locally, they will develop into the ability to treat all the persons in a family for their medical needs.    

The Lamar Municipal Pool is getting a new roof, replacing the old one which was damaged during the June 2 summer tornado. Parks and Recreation Director, Rick Akers, said the entire roof is being replaced as well as the ceiling of the men’s locker room which had a limb pierce the roof and ceiling during the storm. The limb was left in place as the roof had been planned for replacement. Of the ten bids mailed out, Camp and Currell Construction was the only company that responded and was awarded the project at $26,969.39. The insurance estimate for the project is $27,661.42. The 6,000 square foot roof will be replaced by 26 gauge corrugated steel sheeting. The small pavilion just south of the pool will have its roof replaced for $1,150. 

Men’s Locker Room Ceiling

The City of Lamar has $100,485 left over from an earlier project converting the Lamar airport parking aprons from concrete to asphalt. According to Public Works Director, Pat Mason, the FAA requested the funds be transferred to a project at the Fort Morgan airport. If not, the funding will be returned to Washington, DC. The council approved the transfer. Mason said those funds will not be lost to the City of Lamar for future projects. One area briefly discussed by Councilman Oscar Riley noted the crosswind runway needs a $2 million overhaul and 90% will be paid by the state and the $200,000 balance will have to be funded by the city. The project is several years off which should give the city time to set aside the needed funding in future budgets.

A public hearing will be held on Monday, September 10, during the next city council meeting. The council set the date for discussion of the final plat of Westview Park Subdivision at 1200 South 14 Street in Lamar. Chief Building Official, Bobby Ward, said the land is owned by Guyla Peery who plans to subdivide the property. 

The annual agreement for use of the Lamar Community Building between the city and the Denim and Lace dance group was approved for the 2012-2013 year. Rick Akers, Parks and Recreation Director, said the contract is $2,704, reflecting a 4% increase from last year’s $2,600 fee.

Lamar Deputy Fire Chief, Pat Leonard introduced the city’s two new Fire Engineers, Patrick Arrona from Las Animas and Marcus Widener from Penrose. Both men have EMT training and have spent the last month becoming familiar with the Lamar Fire Department’s equipment and standard operating procedures. 

Labor Day is September 3 and city offices will be closed that Monday in observance of the national holiday. The Lamar City Council will hold their monthly informal breakfast at the cafeteria at Lamar Community College from 7 to 8am. The pubic is invited to attend the monthly informal sessions to discuss areas of city activity.

John Sutherland, the city’s new administrator, now has his first official council meeting under his belt. He officially began his new position with the city as of August 27, replacing Steven Rabe who acted as interim city administrator since the departure of Bill Pfeilsticker. Roger Stagner said the council and city were lucky to have such a capable individual working on the city’s behalf for the short time he was here. “It was as if Steven was on hand for longer than that, as he never missed a beat,” Stagner said. “He kept things rolling without a hitch, taking on extra chores and duties to help us out. We appreciate that and thank him for his service,” Stagner added.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: BusinesscommunityCountyEconomyEmploymentFeaturedHealthLamarPublic SafetyRecreationUtilitiesWeatherYouth


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