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City considers easing water warning





The Hays City Commission might reduce the stage two water warning to a stage one water watch at its meeting next week.

With Mayor Henry Schwaller IV absent, the commissioners heard an update on the water supply from Bernie Kitten, Hays utilities director. The recent rain improved the levels in the city's wells, he said during Thursday's work session.

Toby Dougherty, Hays city manager, said Kitten's data supports relaxing drought conservation measures.  

"I think the takeaway here, along with what Bernie said, is we're not completely out of the drought, but we're out of the drought enough that our triggers aren't being met," Dougherty said. "We think we can move back to water watch, but we still need to be careful."

City staff would continue public service announcements about the water situation, but they would shift from explaining regulations to promoting rebate programs and tips on water conservation.

Commissioner Kent Steward raised concerns about scaling back the water regulations, and commissioners and city staff discussed the benefits. Giving property owners the opportunity to transition from cool season grass to warm season grass and rewarding the community's conservation efforts were cited.

A city ordinance prohibiting outdoor watering from noon to 7 p.m. during the summer still would apply. The second water conservation tier would increase fees for excessive water use.

• There was a debate between Commissioner Ron Mellick and Bob Dreher, owner of Dreher's Pools and Spas, about a potential fine for draining pools and hot tubs into unpaved alleys and right-of-ways.

Mellick said the practice can damage the paths and force the city to repair them. He proposed setting a fine comparable to the price of hiring a company to drain pools and hot tubs.

Dreher said communication between customers and the companies can avoid repeating an incident where water was drained into an alley near Mellick's home. Pool owners have been conscientious to maintain and repair their pools to help with conservation and should not be punished, he said.

Proposed changes to city code would exempt draining pools and hot tubs from the ban on water runoff from properties, but it would be unlawful to drain onto the unpaved paths. The water could be directed into storm sewers, sanitary sewers and impervious curbs along properties.

• Commissioners heard about a $95,000 bid from an engineering design firm for the reconstruction of 13th Street from Main to Milner.

• Commissioners were informed about a tentative agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 48 Inc. for a 2-percent bonus to be paid out over the duration 2015.