City of Lamar Joins Citizen Lawsuit Against ARPA, Nieschburg Resigns from ARPA Board

Coal Domes

Coal Domes

The Lamar City Council last night, July 14, approved a resolution to join a citizens’ lawsuit regarding the electrical energy rates charged by the Lamar Electrical Department and Contractual Relationships between member cities and ARPA, Arkansas River Power Authority and the bond holders or insurers (Syncora Guarantee, Inc.) of the Lamar Repowering Project.  The resolution states that the City of Lamar will join as a plaintiff in the lawsuit with Colorado Mills, LLC, Palace Holdings, LLC, Ports to Plains Travel Plaza and Jeanna DeWitt.  The Denver based law firm of Allen and Vellone was hired by the initial plaintiffs to represent them in their suit against ARPA.  The City of Lamar, by their resolution, will also join them in their suit against the power supplier.  The lawsuit was filed electronically last night in Prowers County District Court once the unanimous vote was taken by the Lamar City Council.  Prior to taking action, the council went into executive session for about an hour before making an official, unanimous vote.  The resolution stated that the council would have been named as a defendant in the lawsuit with ARPA, but was given an option of joining the original plaintiff group as a party plaintiff.  Lamar businessman, Doug Thrall, owner of the Rodeway Cow Palace Inn, said the lawsuit is being filed on behalf of every resident and business owner in Lamar who has been negatively impacted by the utility fees required to pay down the debt service on the Lamar Repowering Project.  On a special council meeting held Monday, July 7, the council approved a resolution not to reaffirm the organic contracts with ARPA, which, in part, would have eliminated any future opportunity for the city to file suit against ARPA or Syncora Guarantee, Inc.

Another resolution was passed by the council appointing an interim representative to ARPA, as City Attorney, Garth Nieschburg, who was one of the two City of Lamar representatives to the ARPA board, tendered his resignation effective this past Wednesday, July 9.  The council appointed City Administrator John Sutherland as its representative to act on its behalf at the next scheduled ARPA meeting on Thursday, July 31, in Las Animas.  The other city representative is Houssin Hourieh, Superintendent of Lamar Light and Power.  In his letter to ARPA and the Lamar Utilities Board, Nieschburg stated he took the action to avoid any appearance of impropriety or conflict of interests as Lamar’s attorney.

In a related matter, another resolution passed by the council reiterated its position that the city’s two ARPA representatives should vote No on the potential decommissioning and demolition of the coal fired boiler.  They also directed that a No vote should be cast on surrendering the permit from the state to maintain and operate the boiler at the Light Plant.

Lamar City Administrator, John Sutherland, informed the council that he received a letter from Charter Communications, detailing changes regarding the cable company’s pricing, packaging and installation and miscellaneous charges in Lamar on or by July 22.  The packages will be made available to both new and existing residential customers.  The city has held two public hearings this year regarding the renewal of the franchise agreement between the City of Lamar and Charter Communications.  The current agreement with Cablevision will expire September 13, 2014.  The original ten year agreement was made between the city and Bresnan Communications which expired in 2009 and was replaced with a five year agreement.  During that period, Bresnan sold to Cablevision Systems which, in turn, sold to Charter.

Public hearings were held for a special event permit for the Lamar Chamber of Commerce to host a beer garden during the annual Oktoberfest on East Beech Street on October 4.  The beer garden will be open from 10am to 10pm on that Saturday and the council approved the request.  The Lamar Eagles Aerie #3898 requested a public hearing for a Tavern Liquor License.  The lodge currently has a Club Liquor License.  The hearing date was set for July 28.

One bid was received for the replacement of the Precision Approach Path Indicator Lights at the Lamar Municipal Airport.  The council approved the bid of $84,129.99 from Electrical Excellence of Colorado Springs which fell below the original estimate of $147,382 by $63,252.  The city will be required to provide a 10% in-kind match for its portion of the CDOT grant.  Once the installation has been complete, the FAA requires the runway lighting project to be tested at a cost of $24,664.08   

The three year intergovernmental agreement with Lamar Community College was altered for one new year.  The current contract expired June 30 and was for a three year fixed cost agreement for $14,000 with a one year extension.  Following negotiations, the new one year agreement will be for $15,000 and the college will have exclusive right to the Batting Facility at the ball parks.  The college will still maintain Merchant’s Park and provide assistance with the softball field.  Administrator Sutherland said the college does allow other entities to use the Batting Facility, but they must make prior arrangements through LCC.

The council approved the annual contract between the city and Denim and Lace for use of the community building for another year.  The contract amount of $2,704 is not changed.  The only contract modification is to the dates of use.

The council approved a resolution for a grant from GoCO, Greater Outdoors Colorado, to the City of Lamar to finish the final two ball fields at the Sports Complex.  The grant was for $239,822.  City Administrator Sutherland said the required matching funds will be available from the city’s Conservation Trust account.  An article detailing the Sports Complex and the grant was published earlier this month in The Prowers Journal.

By Russ Baldwin

Brought to you by: Colorado East Bank & Trust

Brought to you by: Colorado East Bank & Trust

Filed Under: BusinessCollegecommunityCountyEconomyEnergyFeaturedHot TopicsLamarProwers CountyRecreationThe Journal AlertUtilities


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