Economics Highlight Crowder Town Hall Meeting


District 35 State Senator Larry Crowder

Several topics were discussed during the Saturday morning Town Hall meeting held by State Senator, Larry Crowder, and the general focus was on the economic impact of each issue, whether it was gun safety legislation, the repurposing of the former Ft. Lyon Prison in Bent County, Conservation Easements or ARPA electric rates. Crowder, newly elected to State Senate District 35 in last November’s General Election, was making a sweep through the area to update citizens on legislative developments in the state capitol and to listen to their concerns. His meeting was held Saturday, March 23, at the Rodeway Cow Palace Inn and was attended by Prowers County Commissioner Henry Schnabel, Janet Marriott Prowers County Republican Party President, Andy Wyatt County Assessor, members of Voices of Southeast Colorado and the general public. 

Crowder expressed his disappointment at the recent gun legislation measures which were signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper last week. He said he believed that few safeguards for the public would be accomplished by the new legislation on gun registration and limiting the amount of rounds that could be held by gun clips. He believed there was a lot of out of state campaign financing that came into Colorado to help pass the new laws. Crowder was critical of some legislators who said they voted in favor of the new safety laws in opposition to the will of the people they represented in their districts. The senator felt there would be some economic downturn realized if the state’s gun magazine manufacturers held true to their word and left Colorado to manufacture their products in another location. 

Crowder discussed House Bill 1261, intended to generate funding to help turn the former Ft. Lyon Prison in Bent County into a center to rehabilitate homeless veterans. The plan was developed about a year after the prison was closed due to economic constraints in the state prison system. He said the current bill calls for $2.7M in start up fees and explained that the program has to have sustainable funding in order to continue. “I’d like to see the project take another step forward,” he explained,” and develop the facility into a domicilary for a veteran and their spouse or perhaps as an assisted living center.” He felt the project could also be expanded to offer similar services to non veterans. Plans include housing an initial 80 persons at the Las Animas site and increase its intended capacity to 300 residents several years later.  

The cost of electricity paid by ARPA member customers was discussed. Senator Crowder, when asked if he had any input into the cost overruns of the Lamar Repowering Project, said he doesn’t believe the construction bonds can go into default. “The Arkansas River Power Authority is in pretty good financial shape,” he commented, stating he felt there was no chance of a bankruptcy being filed.  The main question is how you satisfy the bond issue as it is. “The ideal thing would be a bailout,” Crowder added, “How do you get the federal government involved in the bailout to pay off the bonds and then start over?” One audience member remarked that in his estimation the current situation is attributed to gross mismanagement on the construction, plans and execution of the natural gas plant that was converted to coal use. He suggested that the financial consequences should fall to ARPA and not to the general consumers. Another member added that when you buy bonds of any nature, you recognize that you’re taking a risk that they will or will not pay out for you and the bond holders should shoulder the risks. Crowder was open to suggestions on how best to proceed with a meeting with ARPA officials and said if anyone had a viable plan on how to satisfy the bonds within legal boundaries, he’d listen to those arguments. 

Crowder made the case for local input to help him help area residents in his district using some of their ideas for problem solving, either for utility rates or in the case of the ongoing problems with conservation easements.  The senator explained that several hundred landowners in southeast Colorado are concerned about their conservation easements that were downgraded or negated in their value when they were re-assessed several years ago. Crowder said he’s been sent a bill from easement owners that stated, “Anything prior to July 2008, effective by July 2014, if those cases aren’t brought forward and investigated, all that money should cease after July 2014.”   

In an answer to a question regarding the high cost of medical care, Senator Crowder attributed that to care for the uninsured who cannot pay for their health care.  “That translates to an increase in the cost of our insurance payments,” he explained.  “What we have right now in the state of Colorado is Medicaid expansion and from this point on, in order to benefit our citizens, I’m leaning forward on the expansion,” he added.  He said that the greater number of persons who are below the poverty level in his district, about 20%, could be helped with the increase in Medicaid.  “This won’t lower your insurance premiums, but it will keep them from getting higher,” Crowder told the audience.  He said that by next year those people who purchase their own private health insurance will see increases on their premium payments than those who get their coverage through their employment.  Crowder said that Medicaid expansion will help out southeast Colorado more than any other area of the state.

By Russ Baldwin.

Filed Under: BusinesscommunityCountyEconomyEnergyFeaturedPoliticsProwers CountyUtilities


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