Solar power for the town, police department and advisory council discussed Monday evening.
Fowler Town Council met, as scheduled, Monday evening, Jan. 25. On hand to make public comment regarding the police department was area resident, Rob Martin. Appearing for the third, and in his words, “hopefully the last time,” Martin addressed Mayor Ray Wards referencing a letter received from Town Administrator, Wayne Snider. Martin first approached council on Dec. 28 about a speeding ticket he received near Fowler High School. While Martin does not believe he was speeding, his main complaint is how Fowler Officer Laura Lindholm handled the traffic stop as well as his claim of her excessive speed through the school zone in pursuit.
Snider's letter of response to Martin, dated Jan. 10, indicates in the absence of solid evidence, the matter has been closed. Snider worked in conjunction with Otero County Sheriff, Chris Johnson, to reach a decision.
However, Martin pressed council to remain vigilant about managing the police department claiming he recently learned Fowler Police Officers are not certified to use radar guns. Martin said every officer should be trained and certified to use each particular brand of radar gun and that those guns need to be calibrated often. He went on to ask Snider to provide information regarding proof of training and calibration, as well as dates and times each officer, including Henry Borrego, Laura Lindholm and Douglas Perry were provided with copies of the department's Standard Operating Procedure manual.
“All I'm asking is officers in Fowler are trained properly. This has gone on long enough,” Martin commented. “I enjoy and love this town. I just don't like some of the things we do.”
Fowler Trustee Pat Christensen answered Martin's comments saying council is actively attempting to correct many of the issues surrounding the police department. “The public is going to have to bear with us,” he said. “Several of the police officers (in question) are gone, but we can't do this overnight. There are legalities we have to follow. We are making sure we do everything we can.”
In other business, Snider reported boring under the railroad track has been completed but there is still a lot of work to do. Crews are hooking up lines this week as excavation continues north along Highway 167 toward Highway 96. Snider said it could take up to two months before work along the highway is completed. In the meantime, drivers should expect traffic delays and detours.
Snider also told council he has received several calls about individuals interested in serving on the Police Advisory Council but only one letter. Snider encourages anyone interested to please send a letter of interest as that is the only way membership on the committee will be considered.
Snider was asked about progress finding a police chief. Several resumes have been submitted as well as one from an individual interested in helping with the actual hiring process. This person would assist with screening, interviewing and hiring.
Martin asked if the town had considered using a system similar to Manzanola or Ordway where a marshal would be hired by the town providing local coverage but funds not used to maintain a full time force could be transferred to Otero County Sheriff's Department in exchange for coverage.
Snider says that possibility has been considered but due to lack of resources and manpower, it would not be feasible. “Otero County is doing a great job helping us out right now, they just don't have the resources to do it on a long-term basis.” General discussion indicated Fowler did not have a large enough budget to hire a marshal and provide adequate funding to Otero County. (Fowler's annual criminal justice budget for 2010 is $178,000.)
Trustee Jack Hobby also pointed out Fowler's proximity is an issue. Fowler is Otero County's furthest municipality from the sheriff's headquarters in La Junta. Other area agencies including Crowley County Sheriff's Department have also been lending assistance to Fowler, and trustees expressed appreciation for the support.
Representatives from Vibrant Solar, Mitch Gyles and Robert Quist, were in attendance Monday evening and presented a brief proposal regarding solar power for the Town of Fowler. Ten sites located in and around Fowler would provide power for virtually all of the town owned facilities and properties. These units would be tied to the existing power grid to provide electricity at night and during overcast weather. Excess power created by the Town be would credited back to Fowler from Black Hills Energy. Trustees agreed to move forward with the project and approved a contingent agreement with Vibrant Solar allowing the company to file for rebates and credits with Black Hills Energy on behalf of the Town.
Residential accounts and private businesses would not be affected by these solar installations, but those interested in additional information were encouraged to contact Gyles.
Additional items addressed by council included a liquor license renewal for Loaf n Jug, renewal of the building lease at Town Hall, approval to use the Internal Revenue Service standard reimbursement figure for mileage (currently 50 cents per mile), and advising Snider to move forward on a United States Department of Agriculture solar application grant. By designating the clubhouse at Cottonwood Links as an emergency facility, Snider believes the town can secure enough funding to pay for solar installation at that site.
Next town council meeting is scheduled for Feb. 8 at 6 p.m.