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City of Hays still not at level to warrant water emergency





It's a concern Hays City Commissioner Henry Schwaller IV said he has heard from several Hays residents: Given persistent drought conditions throughout the state, how secure are Hays' water sources?

Passing handout information regarding Kansas municipalities with watering bans or voluntary restrictions to other commissioners at Thursday night's work session, he pointed out seven cities instituted voluntary water restrictions and seven cities imposed a ban on all outside watering or restricted watering on specific days of the week.

"I want for us to have a discussion for those that are concerned about our water -- about what we would do if the situation were to become worse, even though we have conservation measures in place," Schwaller said.

City Manager Toby Dougherty told commissioners that, in accordance with the city's detailed water plan, triggers had not yet been hit that would signal need for a water watch, warning or emergency. Although water sources have been stressed, and usage levels have increased throughout the summer, the Smoky wellfield, he said, is in "pretty good shape."

Reconfiguration and respacing of the wellfield a few years ago has made it more drought resistant, he said.

"It's paid off on the Smoky, and we are still quite a ways from a trigger for that," Dougherty said. "We have been more stressed with the Big Creek wellfield.

"We haven't hit the triggers yet, but I can see us hitting the triggers there quicker than anything."

In the event triggers are reached, Dougherty said, outdoor watering bans and other measures would be considered.

In other business:

* Erin Niehaus, human resource coordinator, brought before commissioners a job classification and pay plan that would increase wages of non-union employees by 3 percent beginning in 2013. A 3 percent cost-of-living increase to all employees covered by union contracts was approved in early June. Commissioners will vote on the measure at next Thursday's regular meeting.

* Schwaller discussed with commissioners the possibility of requiring agencies that receive city of Hays funding to acknowledge that support in marketing materials. He said he will investigate whether other cities have guidelines to that effect in place.

* Term limits for advisory committee appointees also was a topic broached by Schwaller, who asked commissioners if limiting terms might allow for new perspectives on several of the city's committees. Dougherty said he will look at several aspects that might bear consideration in relation to city advisory committees and also seek staff input.