Police department reports capture of armed suspects; welcomes new officer

By Demian Ryder

Over public meetings held in February and March, the Fowler Board of Trustees heard reports from police, library, and public works, and continued to work on the town's infrastructure concerns.

At the March 12 meeting, Fowler Police Chief Jacob Friedenberger noted that his officers recently served a "search warrant at a home" where they "recovered two firearms." During the incident, "two people barricaded themselves within the home... we took that very seriously" and "we did make two arrests out of that." The Chief thanked other departments ("we did have some assistance from the parole office and the Otero County Sheriff's Office") as well as the Fowler Board, for its support through equipment budgeting: "we didn't employ any violence during those arrests" but "we did make use of the rifles and bulletproof vests."

The Chief also noted that "we have been noticing a slight increase in thefts - no burglaries," and advised the public to be alert. Friedenberger also introduced new officer Webster Hogue to the Board.

The city pool house project nears completion. Following the rejection of initial bids on the project, the Town of Fowler was able to arrange a smaller total cost that could be met through existing budget funds.

A number of compromises were built into the negotiated final bid; for example, we're "not going to replace the roof on the bathhouse; we will repair the roof on the concession stand" - which presently leaks - noted City Attorney Dan Hyatt. The fundamentals ("plumbing alone is in excess of $20,000") were preserved, however, and the amount settled on was $56,644. Each resolution passed by Board vote; the project is on target for "a week before the pool opens" to be complete.

Dealing with much higher numbers, the modifications to the city water treatment plant are also close to settlement, allowing installation to proceed. "Our deadline to do this project was actually Dec 31, of 2017," noted Hyatt in February, also stating that "we've been doing everything possible" to minimize borrowing and avoid rate increases. It has been necessary to modify the water treatment project after the state health department (CDPHE) rejected initial the initial design because "total inorganic nitrogen" was not covered.

Since the modifications raised the price, Hyatt "yelled foul," and fortunately was heard. "It's extraordinary for the state to give you a second loan on a project before you even start the project" but this one has been, for "0% interest." To lower costs, Fowler "asked our grant coordinator if there was any issue if we do the work ourselves" and received permission to install the nitrogen filtration unit using city public services.

"The water treatment plant itself is put together in the factory and arrives in a skid... the biggest share of work for public works is to connect the water and sewer lines." The project also needs a housing building for the chlorine tank; "safety for our employees and the public" requires a building that won't easily corrode to the chlorine.

The project also involves "putting in a wet well, which is where the brine discharge will go" - roughly a 10' x 8' hole where waterborne dirt and debris can be sifted out and stored in suspension. "The brine is stored there and then its pumped gradually out and into the sewer line" at a rate that isn't disruptive - for construction, "timing is important because" of the risk of rain - "as unlikely as that may seem right now."

"As long as we do the work" it can be completed "for the amount we have in our 2018 budget" and "without increasing the water rates of our customers." This met with Board approval, reinforced by the thought "that the salary dollars will stay here in this town" (said Trustee Andy Lotrich). Feb 12 saw the Board pass the plan, and it continued course through subsequent meetings. The schedule is "projecting that that project will be complete by the end of November."

Librarian Stephanie Delaney's reports note robust use of the Fowler Public Library progressing over the first quarter of the year. January and February both saw attendance close to 25 a day; "wifi usage is still high" and the "after-school program is still going strong." The latter combines art and technology "using the new Ozobot that we have" and the library "did more on robots"after its introduction was so well-received. The program is both entertaining and "making kids wants to do coding."

In February, the  program continued into plants, with take-home seed and soil projects. On the adult services side, the tax preparation program is another strong library success, booked solid or close to it and expanding hours to meet the demand. Delaney also noted the library's wider presence; "we now have digital archives that you can access from around the state."

Similar attendance continued in February,

On the Feb 12 meeting of the Board, Rebecca Sharp of the Missouri Day Commission described this year's event, to be held on July 21. Plans are to "expand upon the rodeo" and "add... kids' events" to broaden the family appeal, with no particular cuts noted - Missouri Day 2018 will offer a "lot of the same things... we did last year."

Also at that meeting, Heather Mason of Tri-County Housing made the case for the use of the Town's utility address list for mailings describing their home remodeling support program. "We help homeowners address the health and safety issues in their homes," Mason said, noting that this raises property values and extends the lifespan of the houses in towns. Hyatt noted that "we could not do it with names," but that Tri-County's request for addresses alone would be ok, and the motion passed unanimously.

In additional business handled, access was granted on Feb 12 to the US Department of the Interior to access city properties such as the well; "this is for the Arkansas valley conduit," noted Hyatt. On Feb 19, the extension of the water lease with Super Ditch passed unanimously; here's no downside to it; we participate in the program, and we get [nearly] free water" - some 50 acre-feet per year.

On March 12, Mayor Chuck Hitchcock read a letter from "two young ladies" suggesting the historic former school by the public library "be turned into a small children's museum." The break in the potable tap line at the senior center was reported to be repairable within the existing budget. Phat Willy's had its liquor license renewed, with no violations.

The next meeting of the Fowler Utility Board will be on April 2, and the Board of Trustees will next met on April 9.