2014 Year in Review-January/February

The close of 2014 will put us at the halfway mark for the decade.  Some use the passage of time as a measuring tool…how much have we done…how much time have we got left.  But the timetable for a city or county should probably be measured in accomplishments, not a calendar.  Some projects and programs come with a deadline, and although they can be met, the ramifications will be on-going.  We’ll take note of past events for 2014, some of which will continue to impact our lives as we measure out the years to come.

ARPA, LUB, Repowering Project, City of Lamar, Citizen’s Lawsuit…these various parties contributed to the most widely read series of articles published in The Prowers Journal for 2014.  As outlined in the lead paragraph, events for the development of the coal-fired power plant, which predate 2014, will continue to affect the economic life of the surrounding community for years to come.

The Lamar Chamber of Commerce held its 93rd annual banquet at the Lamar Eagles Lodge.  A capacity audience attended for the president’s transition from Denise Carder to Lisa Thomas for 2014.  The evening is highlighted by the Community Awards presentations.

Linda Fairbairn

Linda Fairbairn

Linda Fairbairn, the former Director of the Prowers County Department of Social Services, was recognized as Citizen of the Year for her 40-plus years of service; Betty Park, the former Director of the Mary and Martha Food Pantry was honored as Humanitarian of the Year and Axel Thurner was the Honker of the Year for his work with the ‘welcoming’ arm of the Lamar Chamber.  The Voces Unidas, Spirit Award was presented to young teenager Janea Aguilera, who had shown both bravery and poise during her lengthy treatments for several forms of cancer.

Janea Aguilera

Janea Aguilera

Lamar received word that there would be no funding for the Lamar By-pass or Reliever Route.  For a while, it appeared the long-debated by-pass would see some action, developing a truck and traffic route which would skirt Main Street and downtown Lamar.  Paul Westhoff, CDOT representative for this part of southeastern Colorado, held several public meetings to discuss the most recent developments and studies which focused on safety concerns for Highway 287 traffic through Lamar.  CDOT studies showed approximately 1,740 trucks a day are on Lamar’s Main Street, or 635,100 annually.  A 20 year projection estimated a 35% through those years, and general traffic is anticipated to increase to 17,000 vehicles each day.  Westhoff said CDOT has been working with a design consultant to help fix the deteriorating condition of the roadway specifically between the Lamar Canal south, to Parkway Street, and a two part, major repair of the highway has been anticipated to begin by 2015.  No specific date is available at this time, but the City of Lamar is taking the opportunity to overhaul the 80 year old water infrastructure running under the downtown streets.  Which entity, city or CDOT, will pay that bill, now estimated at over $3 Million, is still in debate.

As traffic designs for the new street were under consideration, a coalition of health oriented citizens and medical providers, were developing ideas through community input, on how best to capitalize the construction for physical exercise.   The local Healthy Places Initiative, working with facilitators Civic Canopy and volunteers have been creating suggested walking paths, bike routes and safety islands along the main street through Lamar.

Leonard Gets First Look at Engine #3

Leonard Gets First Look at Engine #3

Pat Leonard, Lamar Deputy Fire Chief, was honored for his 39 years of community service early in the month.  A reception, picture slide show and buffet dinner was held as a friendly ‘roast’ was emceed by Fire Chief Marshall Cook for Leonard’s friends and family.  Pat Leonard began his service to Lamar in 1974 as a volunteer fireman and held every position in the department since he became a paid member in 1978.


Perfectly bad timing and a frozen fiber optic cable locked channels for Charter Communications Customers…on Super Bowl Sunday…featuring the Broncos and Seahawks.  Early morning risers noted that something was wrong with their tv sets by 6:08am when all their channels froze, and about a nano second later, Charter started getting frantic calls from football fans.  3,500 customers between Lamar and La Junta had a bad case of jitters until service was restored just minutes before the ultimate sporting event at 6pm.  And of course we all know how THAT game turned out.  Charter Communications was discussed by the Lamar City Council during a February public hearing on the company’s contract renewal with the city, due in September.

Six candidates for Prowers County Sheriff appeared before a standing room only audience Monday, February 24, at the Lamar Cultural Events Center to state their case as to why they should be the next sheriff come Election Day in November. The candidate’s forum was hosted by Dr. Gerry Branes from Voices of Southeast Colorado in conjunctions with Second Amendment Defenders of Southeast Colorado.  Five candidates were currently in law enforcement in Prowers County.  Dave Reid, Sam Zordel, Ron Trowbridge, Shawn Stone, David Dougherty and the sixth candidate was Joe Walker.  Some central issues were evident through questions from the audience; altering the $2.5 million annual sheriff’s budget, increased law enforcement coverage for Holly and Granada, changes for the sheriff’s department or personnel, thoughts on drug prevention and where did each candidate stand regarding enforcement of the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms if the President tried to take them away from the citizenry?  The political process moved forward in Prowers County with the GOP Precinct Caucus held on Tuesday, March 4 at the LCC Wellness Center and at the Holly City Complex at 5:30pm.

Kevin Knight and Clifford Boxley were voted in as new LPI board members during the annual meeting, of Lamar Partnership Incorporated on February 26. Sean Lirley was elected to a new three year term.  Board positions will remain the same with Kim Fornier as president, Melissa Bohl as vice-president, Denise Carder as treasurer and Carla Scranton as secretary.  Executive Director, Shawna Hodge, said she is working on three future projects: using Urban Redevelopment Authority funds to purchase the vacant lot on East Beech Street across from the chamber, developing a citizen’s guide to how the URA works and producing a brochure that outlines the type of permits and codes required to begin a business in Lamar.  Rose Ann Yates discussed the ‘Hotter than Hell’ music festival being planned for Lamar on July 19.

On February 28, the Arkansas River Power Authority filed a lawsuit against Babcock & Wilcox Power Generation Group, which supplied the coal-fired steam boiler for the Lamar Repowering Project. The boiler was never able to meet its emissions guarantees. ARPA claimed it has been unable to operate the plant and has incurred substantial losses. The losses include millions of dollars spent to resolve the operating deficiencies per B&W’s modifications to the boiler, fines and penalties paid to regulators for emission exceedances, and legal fees spent for environmental litigation resulting from the boiler’s failure to meet its emission guarantees.  Rick Rigel, ARPA’s General Manager, reported ARPA has provided B&W ample opportunity to remedy the issues with the boiler, but despite repeated attempts, B&W has not been successful. Several attempts at negotiating a settlement were also attempted but to no avail.

Paving Underway on Beech Street Parking Area

Paving Underway on Beech Street Parking Area

The Lamar City Council, meeting as the Lamar Redevelopment Authority Board, discussed the merits of purchasing the vacant lots in downtown Lamar that adjoin the City’s existing municipal parking lot on the north and abuts Beech Street on the street’s south edge.  City Administrator, John Sutherland, explained that the property meets the city’s need for additional parking and provides space for seasonal street fairs.  The two lots have been offered by the owner, PJ Wilson for $30,000, plus a onetime interest fee of $1,000.  Wilson will finance the purchase for two years allowing the Redevelopment Authority Board to minimize cash impact in any one year.  The board voted to purchase the property which has since been paved as additional parking space for downtown shoppers.

The next Year in Review segments will be posted online on Saturday, December 27.
By Russ Baldwin


Filed Under: BusinessChamber/Local BusinesscommunityEconomyEntertainmentFeaturedHealthLamarLaw EnforcementProwers CountyYouth


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