City of Lamar Employees Getting Salary Adjustments

Half of the City of Lamar employees could see salary increases beginning next month. By a unanimous vote, the city council approved the recommendations of a five month salary and job description study by an independent consulting firm. The consultant, Matthew Weatherly, presented his synopsis for the council during the regular Monday meeting, March 25. The study showed 55 employees fell below the salary scale for their job description when compared to 14 regional cities in southeast Colorado. The study also recommended the consolidation of job descriptions and titles as the city has 100 titles for 162 different job positions. Seventy-one, or 53% of the employees will have their titles updated and modified to fit their more appropriate tasks. City Administrator, John Sutherland, said there was line item funding with the contigency in the 2013 General Fund and some of the increases will also come from other budget areas to realize the average 2.94% salary upgrade, a little more than the $111,183 difference in the monthly salary structure found by the consultant. This does not mean an employee will suddenly get a $5,000 raise to achieve the median salary level. The salaries will be raised to reach the minimum hourly rate outlined in the consultant’s recommendations and the increases won’t be automatic, but will be based on employee performance of the expectations in each job. Sutherland also stipulated in the adopted plan that there will be, “Only one bite of the apple,” for the employees. They can achieve a salary increase, but that will exclude a merit increase for the year. Weatherly told the council that you won’t catch up everyone all at once, but this will be a starting point for salary parity.

A public hearing on a request for a temporary modification of use permit for the Buzzard’s Roost was conducted by the council with the request receiving unanimous approval. Proprietor Jay Gruber had asked for the permit to hold two annual music concerts at his establishment at 101 North Main Street in Lamar. One event, the Country Jam, is planned for June 22-23 and the Road Jam for September 21-22. The permit is required to allow the majority of the concerts to be held outdoors, adjacent to the Buzzard’s Roost. This will mark the second year for the Country Jam and the seventh for the Road Jam. The second event is not automatically guaranteed, but will be contingent on the general performance of the first, barring any general alcohol or crowd related problems.

The council approved an agreement with LAWMA for the assignment of tributary ground water in the Arkansas River Basin. The City of Lamar has 606.5 acre feet of excess accretions that will accrue to the Arkansas River. The council approved trading those water credits to LAWMA in exchange for the City’s use of LAWMA’s augmentation station on the Fort Bent Ditch through the irrigation seasons from this year to 2016. No actual water will be exchanged, but only the recognized credits that will become LAWMA’s to use as it sees fit.

LCC President, John Marrin, recapped future events at the community college including the 75th anniversary commencement, set for Saturday, April 27.  Antelope Night will be held the prior evening and the graduation will be highligted by featured speaker, John Salazar, Director of the State Agriculture Department and the selection of the Alumni of the Year.  A nurses pinning ceremony will be held that weekend, along with barrel racing and a golf tournament on Sunday.  Marrin said the college will also host approximately 500 high school students on April 3 during the annual FFA Regional Career Development Contest, hosted by the LCC Ag Department.

The council approved two appointments to the Airport Advisory Board. One term became vacant when a member moved away and the other when the term expired. The terms on the board usually run for five years. One appointee, Richard Wollert will fill out the unexpired term ending 2017 and Dean Reed will take the five year term expiring in February 2018.. On another airport matter, the council approved an amendment to the contract between the City of Lamar and Jviation Engineering firm regarding terms of payment for their work redesigning and managing replacement of the airport’s runway end indicator lights. The city agreed to provide $17,000 for in-kind trenching work at the airport. The work will be completed this year.

Various city departments are conducting a general housecleaning of excess and obsolete small equipment and will hold a silent auction on these items to coincide with the spring, city-wide, clean-up day set for Saturday, April 20. The items for the silent auction will be on display at the Lamar Cultural Events Center. The bidding time has a short window, only from 9am to 11am on that day. The unsold items will be disposed of during the city clean up period. The items will be advertised prior to the silent auction.

Chief Building Official for the city, Bobby Ward, asked the council to transfer $14,000 from the 2012 budget to the current condemned building expense line item in the 2013 budget. The 2012 funds had not been used last year and the surplus will be used to off-set the funding which has already been used for 2013.

The Lamar City Council’s work session consisted of a presentation from Emily Nieschburg of LiveWell regarding the Healthy Places Grant. The city could realize up to $1M in funding depending on suggestions to address some of the health needs of Lamar, as compliled from the “2011 Colorado Health Report Card” and the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Lamar is one of three communities selected and the only rural community in the state chosen for the grant. Nieschburg presented figures showing southeast Colorado’s Region 6 has the highest poverty and obesity rates for adults and children in Colorado. “We can take this grant money over the five year study and help leverage it into additional funding to correct some of the city’s infrastructure deficiencies,” she told the council. Studies have shown that obesity rates climb in communities that do not have sufficient parks, trails or even sidewalks to allow citizens a chance to enjoy basic exercise, or access to areas that have parks, baseball fields, swimming pools or other amenities. She asked the council for volunteers to participate in an interview on April 23rd, discussing their thoughts on the needs of the community. A team of panelists from Urban Land Institute will be in Lamar for that week conducting studies and presenting their findings during a public meeting at 8am on April 26 at the Lamar High School Auditorium. The amount of the $1 M grant will be contingent on the recommendations of the panel, based on the community interviews. The interviews should take only one hour and will run from 8am to 4pm at the Project HOPE Center, at Lincoln Elementary School. Those wishing to take part should contact Emily Nieschburg at High Plains Community Health Center at 719-336-0261.

By Russ Baldwin

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