LAGRANGE – The overwhelming and highly emotional theme of this month’s town council meeting in LaGrange was rallying behind new town members Phillip and Lora Gomes, owners of mobile B & V Cafe, who have had a difficult time getting the building ready for the permanent placement for where their food truck and store will be housed.
Last month Lora Gomes met with town council members to discuss a letter she had received from board members about the placement of the couple’s mobile cafe truck on Main Street as the council saw it as a potential hazard with the upcoming winter weather. Gomes explained to council members that her and her husband were seeking a contractor to help finish installing ducts, and other miscellaneous installments inside the building to bring it up to code before they could back up their gourmet kitchen food truck into the building and sought at least a one-month extension until the next town council meeting to update about progress. The council agreed.
At this month’s meeting, the council inquired about progress, and it was a mixture about what next steps included and what could be done immediately as a happy medium to keep both the town safe and help out the Gomes.
The Gomes explained to the council that since last month, they were able to secure a contractor willing to go out to LaGrange to get the required work done in an affordable, equitable fashion, but that it could still require a bit of time.
After a spirited discussion between the council and the Gomes’ and an offer by former council member and lifelong LaGrange town member Doug Chamberlain to craft a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to move both parties forward.
LaGrange resident and supporter of B & V Cafe Robin Boyd said, “I can see some social and practical values that I’m sure you all see as well – I just want to stand in support B & V Coffee, as well as the Town Council, I understand you guys have a difficult job protecting the town as well as supporting businesses.”
“However, since opening B & V (Cafe) has encouraged participation and revitalization of our neighborhood life,” Boyd explained to the council. “If you’ve noticed the LaGrange downtown has come alive – for the first time in a while – it’s awake. Neighbors are coming together. They’re talking, relationships are being built, friendships are being formed – and people have a local place to socialize and take a needed rest from work as well as enjoy food.”
Boyd also explained that in addition to making beverages, like coffees and teas, B&V Cafe also provides the community with the convenience of simple grocery store foods that otherwise would require residents to drive into Torrington, Cheyenne and/or Scottsbluff, NE.
Ultimately, Boyd urged the town council to consider offering the Gomes a one-to-two-month extension to give the couple, who sold everything they had and chose LaGrange to settle down in, raise their family and start their own business and grow with the town the time they needed to benefit everyone. “I would like to see – in the spirit of cooperation for all of our local businesses so that we can continue to thrive as a community,” Boyd finished with.
Town Councilwoman Diane Humphrey agreed and asked the council and LaGrange Mayor Mark Marshall to consider extending a two-month extension to the couple to ensure they had enough time to get the necessary buildout done to be successful in LaGrange before the harsh winter months began.
“I play cards with ladies who don’t live in LaGrange itself, but they live on the outskirts – and it’s all they talk about because we live in a food desert,” Councilwoman Humphrey said. “We just got to get some business here. So, I think we can afford some leeway, some sort of leniency here so that we can make this work while keeping the town safe but also keeping in line with our bylaws. I think we can afford a two-month extension for this family because it brings our town such value.”
After much discussion and deliberation, LaGrange Councilman Mike Meysenburg agreed to offering the couple an extension as well as an MOU through Chamberlain but also stipulated that the Gomes return during the August town council meeting to update the council about the progress of the buildout and advise council of any roadblocks and/or issues.
Councilman Kirk Haas said he understood where the couple were coming from and that he was under the impression that from the last meeting the buildout would be completed by the July council meeting. However, he still had concerns of squatting and town safety along Main Street from passersby and traffic heading in or out of town or as inclement weather passed through since the Gomes had started the B&V Cafe project in November of 2021.
Ultimately, Hass reluctantly agreed with the rest of the council to extend time to Gomes with a stipulation to work with former council member Chamberlain and to update the council at each meeting.
“We certainly want B&V Cafe to be successful here in LaGrange, and we certainly want your family here in our community as you are an asset to our community,” Haas said. “We also want to keep our community safe and free of obstructions that could be hazardous – especially as the winter months start to approach.”
Other community members spoke in support of B&V Cafe and the Gomes, such as LaGrange Clerk Cathy Stoddard and various community members, including teens who said they look forward to picking up hot beverages on their way to school once school begins again in the fall.
“All of us are rooting for your success and we are so thankful you choose our community to be your home and your community too – we welcome you and we are so excited you are here,” Stoddard added. “We really appreciate, and we want to work with you to be successful and make this your home too.”
In addition to rallying behind B&V Cafe, council members voted to increase water, sewer and garbage rates. The council also voted to approve the new Walk Path Phase II.
A healthy discussion centered around what many residents and councilmembers called “eye sores” and “overgrown” lots. A number of residents have neglected to mow and maintain their properties and council members have decided to make attempts at contacting property owners to remind them it is their responsibility to maintain their properties per town bylaws. Future council meetings will discuss what next steps might include – which could include adding additional bylaws of potentially adding fines and/or providing town services and billing residents later for the costs.
The LaGrange Town Council also paid all of its monthly bills, has a positive remaining balance and a balanced fiscal balance.