2014 Year in Review-September/October

Lamard Days Parade 2013 (3)


Shawna Hodge, Executive Director for Lamar Partnership Incorporated, announced that the city had won first place for the 2014 Colorado Main Street of the Year.  She said the selection was made by the Colorado Main Street Advisory Board and announced by the State Department of Local Affairs.  The judging was based on two criteria:  a summary of Lamar’s program year of accomplishments based on the Main Street program’s Four Point Approach and the number of facebook votes.  Hodge said, “Lamar was in competition against Steamboat Springs and ‘The Cliff’s’ communities of Silvercliff and Westcliff.  An award was presented to Hodge and City Administrator, John Sutherland, by DOLA’s Executive Director, Reeves Brown in Fort Collins.


Fence along Holly Street in Lamar

Fence along Holly Street in Lamar

The Lamar Planning and Zoning Commission, after some heated testimony during a public hearing, voted in favor of a zoning change for 22 acres of land owned by Lamar motel owner, Peter Patel.  The request had been made by Patel and his attorney, Mark Davis, to alter the O-E zoning to a combination of commercial and residential, opening the door for Patel to develop the property once he had cleared several EPA and land use regulations.  About a half dozen businesspersons spoke in opposition to the request, stating that the intended land encroached on some property boundaries fronting North Main Street from McDonalds to Burger King, mostly impacting two businesses, Sonic Drive-In and The Pit Stop.  The neighbors also objected to the fence erected by Patel with some claiming the boundaries had not been properly measured.  Others who objected believed the sub-structure of the terrain would never support a small residential neighborhood or commercial investments as sit was too riddled with sink holes and chemical contamination when tons of non salvageable materials were deposited there following the 1965 flood.  Several weeks later The Lamar City to approve the zoning change with the understanding that any construction work could be halted if they were not satisfied that Patel was not following pre-established codes and environmental guidelines.

Lamar Fly In 2014 (7)

The September 20 Fly In Show at the Lamar Municipal Airport offered top flight entertainment and an expanded format for area viewers.  This year, a professional air show team was hired to perform, displaying aerial acrobatics high above the airport, and sometimes it looked like only a few feet and even upside down at times.  The Lamar Fire and Ambulance Department as well as the County Fire Department helped put on demonstration by igniting fires out on the runway apron which was extinguished by air tankers, the YAK flying formations buzzed the local towns and a few Friday night football games and skydivers performed their acts, and enticed a few novice jumpers to put on a chute and take the plunge.


Ft Lyon Residence Center

Ft Lyon Residence Center

While not being located specifically in Lamar, the community had an adjacent role to play in helping the Fort Lyon VA and Homeless Center come to fruition last year in Bent County.  Governor Hickenlooper attended for former prison site in September to help celebrate the facilities first year after being repurposed as a Supportive Residential Community.  The Ft Lyon site housed 221 persons, 23% of whom were homeless veterans, seeking a new start in life and just basic shelter.  Several years of effort were needed to find a new purpose for the 550 acre complex after the prison was shut down by the state, citing a tight economy.  That move put several hundred of Bent County and several dozen Prowers County employees out of work.  While the staff is far from being that same size again, it appeared that the initial growth from 50 to 221 showed that the Center may continue to grow and serve.

911 Tribute 2014 (5)

Lamar’s Third Annual 9/11 Tribute took a new parade route along South Sixth, West Cedar and South Ninth Streets, leading to the Prowers County Fairgrounds.  Area First Responders and veterans dating as far back as World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the mid-east conflicts rode in the parade, acknowledging the thanks of residents who lined the sidewalks.   Doug Harbour, who has masterminded the Tributes for the past three years, got to stand on the sidelines during the parade for the first time.  “This is tremendous,” he said.  “We have a great day and a great turnout, and I’m just so happy that all the work that went into this event is coming together.  We have a lot of good people that volunteered their time to make this work.”  The Tribute was highlighted by guest speaker, Jerry Rhodes, who has the distinction among many titles, of the Colorado Fire Chief of the Year and Fire Chief of the Cunningham Fire Protection District of the unincorporated Arapahoe County in Denver.  Rhodes drew prolonged applause from the audience when he referenced past honors to veterans.  “As a nation we need to take care of our veterans from Vietnam before we no longer have the opportunity to do so.” Referencing the personal impact many Americans experienced with the events of September 11, 2001, he added, “It’s clear the resolve has to be there to take care of our country and our community.  Our soldiers take care of our country.  Our police officers, firefighters and EMT’s take care of our communities.”


SDS Appreciation BBQ

SDS Appreciation BBQ

Staff and residents of SDS in Lamar hosted a simple, old-fashioned hot dog barbecue as a thank you to  the area for the community’s support for the past half century.  Kim Engsburg, Executive Director, said, “We’re happy to host this for Lamar and surrounding areas for all the help they give to us, and all the donations we’ve received.  This allows our clients to go out and enjoy activities.”  She said SDS is a little larger than most people realize, stating, “I believe SDS is the second largest employer in the county.  Engsburg has been with SDS for about 15 years and the executive director for the past six years.  “I began at the very bottom doing direct care service and worked my up with the organization.”  She added she couldn’t do her job without the support of all the SDS staff.


Jared Penaflor was welcomed as the new president of Southeast Colorado Diversity Council during the organization’s 8th annual banquet at the Lamar Eagles Lodge, Saturday, October 11.  Formerly known as Voces Unidas, this past year, the group decided to reorganize and become independent of the Lamar Chamber of Commerce.  Along with Penaflor, new officers included Leticia Garcia as vice-president and Liz Vasquez as treasurer.  They will replace Gerri Jenkins, Kirk Crespin and Brenda Estrada, respectively.

Gerry Jenkins, Jared Penaflor

Gerry Jenkins, Jared Penaflor

Past and new presidents, Gerri Jenkins and Jared Penaflor presented awards to various citizens of the community, highlighting their efforts at community betterment over the year.  The Excellence in Health award was presented to Emily Nieschburg; Excellence in Civic Duty was presented to Lamar Fire Chief Marshall Cook who accepted on behalf of the community’s first-responders, past and present; the Excellence in Education award was presented to Lamar Community College, with President John Marrin accepting; the Community Spirit award was given to Danielle Dechant and the Citizen of the Year award was presented to Kim Englberg for her continued dedication to Lamar residents as the Executive Director of Southeastern Developmental Services, with Linda Harbour and Loretta Johnson accepting on her behalf.

Litigation issues between ARPA, Arkansas River Power Authority and the Lamar City Council continued with the city voting to pay half of the costs of legal representation by the law firm of Robinson, Waters and O’Dorisio, with the Lamar Utilities Board regarding the city’s interests in the Lamar Repowering Project.  The city voted to retain the firm during their October 13 meeting.  The firm recently represented the city which sought a temporary restraining order against ARPA regarding the decommissioning or scraping of the coal-fired plant.  A special judge denied the motion, stipulating that all involved parties in the dispute try to remedy their differences within a 90 day period once a mediator has been appointed by the court.  Mediation for all parties is expected to begin sometime in mid January of the approaching year.  Light Plant Superintendent Houssin Hourieh stated that once a decision to decommission the plant has been reached, approximately 17 full and part time employees on the Repowering Project will be without work.  The Light Plant has a separate staff of 38 employees.  Some layoffs began to occur before the year’s end with Hourieh noting that ARPA budget cuts for 2015 brought about the layoffs of six employees in November.

In a related move that month, the Lamar Utility Board ratified a letter of intent between LUB and Greencastle, an energy development firm from Ohio.  The letter directs Greencastle to perform an exclusive feasibility study which will focus on options for the future use of the Lamar Repowering Project.  Greencastle is a full service energy developer that specializes in renewable energy and natural gas technologies.  The company website states it can deliver solutions to optimize the total cost of financing, developing and operating a client’s energy assets.  Light Plant Superintendent, Houssin Hourieh, told the board, “Greencastle will evaluate the feasibility of constructing a new gas-fired generation plant.”  He said the contract is for 90 days and can be renewable as required.  A special judge recently ruled against the Light Plant and City of Lamar in their bid to seek a temporary restraining order against ARPA, Arkansas River Power Authority, to move ahead with decommissioning the coal fired plant or scrapping it for an equipment sale.

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