2013 Year in Review for Prowers County: March & April

The Prowers Journal is Providing a Month by Month Recap of the News Events that Highlighted the Past Year

March 2013 Year in Review

Continued concerns over the price of electricity, first voiced in 2012 by several major power purchasers was voiced at a public hearing held by Rick Rigel, General Manager for the regional power company at ARPA headquartered in Lamar.  The meeting was requested by Prowers County Commissioners and owners or managers of JBS Five Rivers Feedlot, the Lamar Truck Plaza, Colorado Mills and Rodeway Cow Palace Inn.

Rick Rigel, ARPA General Manager

Rick Rigel, ARPA General Manager

Rigel said there is little leeway when it comes to lowering rates, stating he was restricted by what was required by the bond covenants.  ARPA, which supplies power to several member communities in southeast Colorado and owns the boilers for the plant, has no leeway regarding any rate relief to customers.  The Light Plant is owned by the City of Lamar.  Citing the 2013 ARPA budget, he explained the debt service on the project is $10.2 million while $12.7 million is required for net operating revenue.  He said that’s coupled with $1.5 million in legal fees from three trials ARPA will face this year from WildEarth Guardians, an environmental group suing both ARPA and the Light Plant for exceeding emissions standards and with the City of Trinidad, an ARPA member.  Plant Superintendent Houssin Hourieh added that under a charter appropriation, the Plant pays the City of Lamar 1.5 cents from the applied rates per kilowatt hour from customers, for an annual fee at over $1 million, giving the Plant little financial room for rate reduction beyond the allowances they’ve recently made to the top-level of power customers.  The possibility of defaulting on the bonds was central to the business owner’s discussion and they requested a future meeting with the ARPA board of directors.  The Light Plant has been off-line for several years and ARPA signed a contract for outside sources of electricity until 2022.

April 2013 Year in Review

More evidence of the continued regional drought came to light with the enactment of Stage 1 Mandatory Water Restrictions for Lamar residents.  The action was recommended by the Lamar Water Board to the City Council as a means of conserving the city’s water supply and reducing evaporation of water by restricting its use to specific days of the week and cooler times of the day.  The restrictions would go into effect in early May.

Northbound on 287 North of Campo - Picture by Don Steerman

Northbound on 287 North of Campo – Picture by Don Steerman

Another reminder of the drought’s status came to light south of Lamar on April 22 when a dust-filled, storm cloud reminiscent of the ‘dirty 30’s’ was photographed from Highway 287, several miles north of Campo.  Highway 50 west of Lamar was temporarily closed, temperatures dropped over 30 degrees in a span of hours and muddy rain droplets also spattered the territory.  Portions of Prowers County were still at D3 or D4 drought classifications, along with most of southeast Colorado.

Water was a concern for the Lamar City Council.  Administrator John Sutherland and Water Director Josh Cichocki said the city would be receiving 1,000 new water monitoring meters and a SCADA monitoring system would be installed allowing the water department to receive a real-time reading of water usage throughout the city.

Paul Westhoff, CDOT resident engineer discussed the possibility of the Lamar by-pass or Reliever Route as it had been termed, being fast tracked for initial construction if the project was selected to receive RAMP, or Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnership grants.  The project remained controversial in the community since it was first discussed almost 20 years ago.  Some believed the route, taking semi truck traffic on an eastern path around the city, would help downtown Lamar prosper, while others feared it could be the final nail in the coffin for any chance of the retail sector recovering if all vehicles could bypass the downtown retail sector.  Financial provisions with CDOT also prompted discussion of the city’s share of any matching funds for the multi-million dollar project as well as potentially assuming ownership and responsibility for maintaining Main Street if relinquished to the city by CDOT.  Several public hearings would be held on the proposal through the summer and fall.

Feed My Starving Children MobilePack Panorama

Local residents again showed their willingness to aid the hungry when several hundred people from all age groups convened at the Lamar Community Building for several days to assemble needed meals for children in developing countries.  The Feed My Starving Children project was conducted three years earlier in Lamar and returned this spring to help put together 100,000 meals to be sent overseas.  Pastor Rory Gillespie of the Lamar Ministerial Alliance said six food stations were needed instead of the four used in 2010.

Lamar Community College celebrated 75 years of higher education in April with graduation ceremonies for 255 students.  Through the year, the college offered several historically themed projects depicting the style and quality of life 75 years into the past.  A popular and informative event held every two years, an Historical Enactment of life on the High Plains between the early 1800s towards the end of the century, was conducted this past fall on the college campus.  Over 1,000 visitors turn out to appreciate the re-enactors who depict a certain segment of economic, political and social development for the decades spanning that particular century. (Editor’s Note:  In the recap for April earlier, I incorrectly identified the wrong year for an LCC graduation ceremony which was interrupted by weather and a power outage.  That occurred in 2012 and not 2013 as I had written earlier.  Thanks to our readership for keeping me on track.)

The Wiley Clinic announced it would close its doors in early April and patients would be able to seek medical treatment at the medical clinic in Eads.  The patients were notified by Weisbrod Memorial Hospital of the pending closure.  Later that summer, High Plains Community Health Center took over operation of the Clinic; insuring Wiley patients would have a local facility to provide medical care.

Ed McMahon Introduces ULI Panel Members to Community Gathering

Ed McMahon Introduces ULI Panel Members to Community Gathering

The community became more health conscious through the past year, thanks to the efforts of LiveWell Prowers County.  Members of the Urban Land Institute were in Lamar for a week’s study and interview program, assessing the needs of the community regarding physical recreational outlets and health-oriented amenities.  The study was sponsored by HPCHC, LiveWell, the Colorado Health Foundation and PUMA.  Prowers County was considered one of the poorest communities in the state, as well as one that indicated a higher average of obese residents in the state.  The study provided other grim statistics such as a declining population and an acute loss of jobs over the past decade.  It also indicated a deteriorating downtown area and lack of safe areas for pedestrians in area neighborhoods as well as downtown.  The upside of the report indicated that the city was in line to receive a $1 million grant if it qualified through the creation of a master plan that would address a healthier living style and provide a means of giving residents exercise outlets not necessarily geared to team sports.

Leon Berndt and Jared Crabtree

Leon Berndt and Jared Crabtree

Members of the Lamar Elks Lodge, #1319 were honored for their accomplishments.  Leon Berndt, Past Exalted Ruler was named Elk Officer of the Year on a local and district level.  The Elk of the Year Award was presented to Past Exalted Ruler, Jared Crabtree on a district and state level.  Crabtree was selected out of 54 Elks Lodges in the state for recognition.

The creation of the Shoppes of the Santa Fe Trail was announced, a consortium of local Lamar businesses, seeking to enhance their business district along Main Street in town.  In a press release, it was stated that local retailers would make positive changes to ensure a prosperous future.  It also stated that retailers voices haven’t been heard in the past and downtown initiatives have been ineffective at best.

Jillane Hixson and Loren Brown at PMC Board Meeting

Jillane Hixson and Loren Brown at PMC Board Meeting

A group of Prowers County residents approached the Prowers Medical Center board of directors requesting they consider a donation of hospital property to be used as the site for a future nursing home.  Jillane Hixson and Loren Brown explained they were part of a group attempting to purchase Juniper Village in Lamar, close and re-purpose the current facility and build a new 60 bed home on the 9 acres of land which would be donated for that purpose by PMC.  The new nursing home development was predicated on accomplishing several tasks including approving an $11 million bond by voters in November, establishing a development district within the county, purchasing Juniper Village and the nursing home certification which would allow the new facility to operate.  The state regulates the number of beds for nursing homes in each county.  The group met with more success later in the year when they made the same request of the board of directors of High Plains Community Health Center, as that board voted in favor of donating their parcel of land, pending all other conditions is met by the group within the necessary time span.

(Editor’s Note:  May & June 2013 will be Highlighted on December 27)


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