2014 Year in Review-July/August

Entrance to Sportsplex

Entrance to Sportsplex

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.

The Lamar Sportsplex, known at its origin as the Four-plex, was funded for the completion of the remaining two ball fields, according to Rick Akers, Lamar Parks and Recreation Director.  Lamar’s application was one of nine grants selected by Greater Outdoors Colorado for funding.  The 36 applications submitted totaled $9.3M total and the nine approved amounted to $2.2M.  Lamar’s request was for just under $240,000.  Akers said the two softball fields will see construction work beginning in early to mid August.  The Sportsplex was initiated by former City Administrator Ron Stock in 2008 and the first of the four fields was completed in time to host the August 2009 Cal Ripken World Series for 10 year old boys.  The City was also chosen to host the 2011 Babe Ruth 16-Year Old Softball Fast Pitch World Series on the second field.  The Sportsplex consists of one baseball and three softball fields.


A farmer’s market, Colorado Gardens LLC on west High 50 in Lamar, opened its doors on Saturday, July 26.  The site is just past County Road 7 as you leave Lamar.  The new store was the collaboration of three owners, Del Ensor, and farmers Michael Hirakata and Matthew Proctor from the Rocky Ford area, and their farms supplied the produce to this section of southeast Colorado.

Torrential rains on the night of July 12 brought sudden flooding to several low-lying portions of Lamar and southeast Colorado.  From Rocky Ford, east to Lamar, heavy rain and strong winds caused Highway 50 to close in some lower areas, especially at several railroad underpasses until the waters receded. Flooded 1

A lot of Sunday morning on-lookers were out as early as sunrise, surveying the swollen creek running through Willow Creek Park.  Roads were closed on College Street, the short stretch of road spanning the creek at Woodlawn Drive and the portion of Willow Valley Road just east of the tennis courts where a water main spilled over the roadway.  By mid-afternoon, the water level had dropped, but was still strong enough to continue to erode and widen a portion of the creek in the park.  Rain fall amounts ranged between two to three inches in some communities.

Willow Creek Park North View from Pike's Tower

Willow Creek Park North View from Pike’s Tower

North Gateway Park, adjacent to the Arkansas River in Lamar, also saw temporary flooding, as waters rose enough to connect the first pond to the second pond due east.  The area in between, about eight acres, had been planted with around 100 shrubs and plants this past Arbor Day weekend.  The northern end of the park was roped off from the pubic due to the high water and a portion of the eastern edge of the parking lot in that section will need grading because of soil erosion from the water runoff.

Standing Water at North Gateway Park

Standing Water at North Gateway Park

Joe Boardman, Amtrak President and CEO visited with Lamar Mayor Roger Stagner and City Administrator, John Sutherland and other well-wishers  Friday, July 11.  Boardman was making a tour of several cities in Kansas and Colorado, meeting with local officials, regarding the future of the route of the Amtrak Southwest Chief between Albuquerque, New Mexico and Newton, Kansas.  The western tour included Topeka, Newton, Hutchinson, Dodge and Garden City, Kansas as well as Lamar and La Junta.  The Southwest Chief route is being threatened with a route change unless the three states impacted can develop enough funding to maintain the line to be used for daily passenger service.  Those cities in question have budgeted lobbying funds to be used by a Washington, DC firm to campaign on their behalf to have the railways upgrades in order to maintain passenger service.  Lamar is funding $10,000 a year in support of maintaining a lobbying firm, along with other city’s donations, such as Garden City and La Junta.  An agreement looks promising for 2016 to maintain service for western Kansas, Southeast Colorado and northeastern New Mexico.

Amtrak Pulling in to Lamar Station

Amtrak Pulling in to Lamar Station

The Repowering Project issue between ARPA and the City of Lamar became more divisive following a Lamar City Council meeting Tuesday night, July 8.  The council voted unanimously to direct its two ARPA representatives, Garth Nieschburg and Houssin Hourieh, to vote No on decommissioning the coal fired plant.  The council tabled action to join a group of citizens who are considering a private lawsuit against ARPA pending further legal counsel, but later in the year, voted to join forces in litigation.  The council voted No to sign the Syncora organic and power supply agreement which would reaffirm the original contracts with the bond holders.  Each ARPA member can select to sign or ignore the request.  However, if one member votes No, it impedes the pending settlement case between ARPA, the City of Trinidad and Syncora.  In later months, that case would be finalized with a financial settlement between the parties.

By a three to one vote, the Prowers County Planning Commission approved the provisional special use permit application from Karl Nyquist of C & A Companies, to establish and operate a dairy cattle operation south of Holly.  A public hearing was held by the Commission at the Prowers Fairgrounds Home Ec Building Tuesday morning, July 15.  Nyquist and several associates described the 7,000 head dairy cattle operation which will be located east of Highway 89, about six miles south and 2 miles east of Holly in land section 18.  Nyquist is partnering with Syracuse Dairy which has five dairy yards in operation in western Kansas.  This will be their first venture into Colorado.  The Town of Holly began developing electric transmission lines for the proposed facility, but as of late fall, the project seemed to be on hold as a nesting area for an endangered species of prairie fowl had been located in the vicinity.  All interested parties were making presentations for an official ruling to further development of the dairy farm, but as of the end of the year, no decision had been issued.

Fencing Going Up at Lamar Store

Fencing Going Up at Lamar Store

Tractor Supply Company drew their building permit from the City of Lamar, allowing the company to take over the former ALCO store at the corner of Savage Avenue and South Main Street.  The company website began advertising for a retail store manager.  Lance Benninghoff, Executive Director of Prowers County Development Incorporated and Lamar City Administrator, John Sutherland, confirmed the company had selected Lamar as its next developed venture.  A store opening is loosely scheduled for February.  Passers-by have noticed construction work underway inside the building as well the construction of a security fence which will hold large sized equipment in the parking lot.

Mikel  Logan Sisneros, 21, of Lamar, was arrested by the Lamar Police Department as a suspect in the July 25 beating of Rudy Ray Munez, also of Lamar.   Sisneros was taken into custody by police at his residence and was initially charged with 2nd Degree Assault.  The Lamar Police Department advised at the time that the investigation was ongoing, but Munez died in a Pueblo hospital on July 29 which brought additional charges against Sisneros.  He remains in jail at this time, awaiting a ruling on a competency hearing.


The Holly Trustees, by a five to two vote, passed the resolution reaffirming its contract obligations to ARPA, Arkansas River Power Authority.  Trustees Larry Sitts and Johnnie Lyons cast no votes during the regular monthly Trustees meeting on Wednesday, August 6.  Holly is one of six ARPA municipality members who have been requested to sign the reaffirmation contract from ARPA.  To date, the City of Lamar is the only ARPA member that has cast a no vote to reaffirm the organic contract.  The Holly approval vote means the town will share in a $2M settlement with the other ARPA members who voted to reaffirm.  Holly’s portion is $56,000 which will be placed in an escrow account for three years.

The City of Lamar’s grant application for funding for North Gateway Park improvements was approved, but City Administrator John Sutherland and Parks and Recreation Director, Rick Akers said It will take several months before the City of Lamar receives funding for the Fishing for Fun grant.  Lamar was one of several Colorado communities that had applied for a portion of the $300,000 available in a grant cycle, receiving $48,000, according to David Miller, Department of Parks and Wildlife Technician.  He said if was just a few thousand dollars less than had been requested and will not hinder any development plans.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, in partnership with the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS), today announced the launch of Colorado’s first-ever statewide mental health crisis hotline.  Prowers County submitted a Request for Proposal in a bid to become the host county for the proposed hotline call center.

Future Site for VA Medical Clinic

Future Site for VA Medical Clinic

The new Veteran’s Administration medical clinic was given a green light in August and was expected to be in operation in Lamar by early to mid October.  The state VA office confirmed that construction to the former Movie Gallery on South Main Street is set to begin in August.  The announcement was welcome news to area veterans who have been without a permanent facility since the clinic ceased operations at Prowers Medical Center almost one year ago.  Some tentative plans had been made to develop a clinic at the County Annex on East Cedar Street, but the available offices did not meet the medical specifications set by the VA.  For almost a year, veterans had been receiving their care at a temporary VA medical mobile trailer parked at the Lamar Sportsman RV Park at 5385 West Highway 50, the former KOA Campgrounds.  Area veterans were informed of the temporary facility by letter last year from the VA.

Honkers and HOPE Web

HOPE Students, Staff and Volunteers


Lori Hammer, Project HOPE director in Lamar, confirmed the El Pomar Foundation awarded a $110,000 grant for funding into the 2014-2015 school year.  “I received a phone call telling us we had been awarded the donation, but I still need confirmation before its official,” she explained during a Partners for HOPE Coalition meeting at Lincoln School.  The funding announcement came just in time, as a previous JAG grant ran its four year course this September.  Hammer had said earlier that the JAG grant was a one-time event and could not be renewed to help fund school activities and pay for staff salaries. The Year in Review articles for September and October will be available on December 30.
by Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: AgricultureBusinessCitycommunityCountyEconomyEducationFeaturedHealthLamarProwers CountyPublic SafetyRecreationUtilities


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