Lamar City Council Okays MOUs, IGAs and SDS Contract

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Janell Martin and Katie Philpy, employed by the Colorado Department of Higher Education and headquartered at Lamar High School, provided an overview of the Colorado Gear Up program for the Lamar City Council during their September 14th meeting. CGU is a federally-funded program that instructs middle and high school students on college basic courses using full-time advisors in schools across the state. It has been in practice for the Lamar school system for the past 20 years. The students visit college campuses and become acclimated to what a college environment would be like by the time they graduate from high school, more prepared to enter the academic world at a college level and in some cases, graduating into college with earned credits from their courses.

Martin added, “We have 107 students that are taking college courses for 291 credits at this time.” She said there is CLEP testing, which rates Spanish speaking ability and good language skills and students, depending on their scores, can add another six to twelve credits if they decide to minor in Spanish when they enter college. Gear Up also provides help when selecting a college and writing letters of application and for scholarships. She told the council, “87% of Gear Up students graduate from high school compared to the state average of 70% and in the first year of college, 81% will continue with their education, compared to only 70% on a state level.” On a local level, she explained that Lamar High School students receive 40% of the ‘pie’ for post-secondary education scholarships when measured statewide.

The council scheduled a September 28th public hearing regarding a Special Events Permit request to host an Oktoberfest beer garden from 10am to 10pm. The Lamar Chamber of Commerce plans to hold the annual event on Beech Street on October 3rd. The council discussed whether a city ordinance requiring TIPS training for those serving alcohol would be the best means of determining if a special events permit would be issued. “In order to have the training mandated, the city would need to issue and pass an ordinance,” explained City Attorney, Garth Neischburg. City Clerk, Linda Williams, said she had contacted ten other Colorado communities to get an idea of how they handled the training relative to special events approval. Williams said two of the ten had an ordinance, but in the case of La Junta, some exemptions were allowed, “Walmart, Safeway, Loaf and Jug and similar stores were not included because these national groups already have their own training regulations in place,” she told the council.

The lone bid from Southeastern Developmental Services, SDS, for lawn-mowing services and property clean-up was approved by the council. There is a flat fee of $75 per clean-up project which could take up to three days. SDS provides its own equipment and has been offering the services around Lamar for over 20 years.  Lamar Police Chief, Kyle Miller, told the council, “This is just about our last resort on these properties. The city has done about 20 clean-ups so far this summer, but we don’t have the staff or equipment to devote to all that need to be done.” The cleanup cost will be assessed to the property owner. When asked by a council member what happens if an owner gets irate, Chief Miller explained his department will appear very quickly to deal with the situation.

Chief Miller also explained the proposal for a Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Lamar and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. The VA has asked the LPD for law enforcement services regarding incidents on VA property in town. Miller said, “This will lay a foundation for how incidents will be handled which may occur on VA property in Lamar.” As the VA Clinic at 1401 South Main Street in Lamar is considered federal land, usually the VA police force enforces the law on its own property, but the closest facility is in Pueblo. For this reason, the VA relies on local law enforcement agencies for emergency police response. The MOU outlines how the VA Police and the Lamar Police Department will collaborate and share information on incidents occurring in their jurisdictions which may impact the other’s operation. The council approved the memorandum.

The council briefly discussed granting the standard discount for ambulance stand-by fees for various events, as outlined by Lamar Fire Chief Jeremy Burkhart. The Lamar RE-2 School District requested a discount for an ambulance stand-by for football games for the season. In the past the discount has included waiving the payment to the city for the actual ambulance which includes $100 for the first three hours of an event followed by $10 per hour after the initial three hours. The District would still pay the hour’s fees for the EMS crew, $90 for the first three hours and $35 per hour afterwards. The ambulance service bills the City directly for the waived fees. On a similar note, a discount request for the ambulance fees for the 2015 LCC College Rodeo was granted. The discount formula is identical to the one requested by the school district.

Rick Akers, Lamar Parks and Recreation Director, said he and the college have been renegotiating an IGA to use the city’s facilities for a one year contract of $16,500. The college uses the ballpark complex through the year. The IGA runs from July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016.   The council approved the IGA. The contract with Denim and Lace was approved for a new year at the same price of $2,704. The contract dates were updated.

By Russ Baldwin

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