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Convention center, water top concerns for candidate

By DAWNE LEIKER

dleiker@dailynews.net

Seeking answers to some pressing questions for the city of Hays, Dominic Pianalto has been weighing alternative viewpoints during his campaign for city commissioner.

Pianalto is one of five candidates for three commission spots and will face Commissioner Ron Mellick, Shaun Musil, Commissioner Eber Phelps and Todd Gabel in the April 2 election.

Water issues, new retail potentials and a proposed convention center are some of the topics Pianalto said are concerning to residents.

There is a split of opinions, he said, when it comes to the idea of a new convention center.

"It has to be presented in a way that makes sense to the public," he said in an interview earlier this month. "It has to prove that it can pay for itself and take care of itself and not just raise taxes.

"People are worried about how to pay their bills from day to day, and raising taxes is not the best way to help them do that."

Creation of a community improvement district to pay for the convention center is an idea Pianalto is not entirely sold upon, as only a handful of businesses would implement the 0.5-percent sales tax that would fund the convention center, which in turn would provide a community-wide benefit.

Maintaining city financial reserves also is important to Pianalto.

"I think we need to keep that money in contingency, because right now, we don't know what the federal and state government's going to do," he said. "There's a lot of uncertainty now."

Pianalto has done some legwork trying to find answers to Hays' water issues, talking with members of the Kansas Water Office.

"They've all said the same thing," he said. "That we need to be diversified in our water, not just say 'Hey, we're going to get all our water from Wilson or we're going to get all our water from Cedar Bluff.'"

One idea that interested him, he said, was that of the city leasing water rights, as opposed to trying to purchase water rights.

But, he admits, it's a complex issue that could entail piecing together several sources.

Water conservation fits into the puzzle, he said, and residents should be incentivized to plant warm season rather than cool season grasses.

"I'm sorry, I'm going to step on people's toes, but there shouldn't be any bluegrass in the city of Hays," he said. "We're not a bluegrass area.

"Granted, it takes a little longer for (warm season grass) to green up and it dies a little quicker, but are we wiling to give up our water for a little bit nicer lawn? It's a trade-off we're going to have to decide."

It's his drive to see Hays succeed and his desire to serve the community that enticed him to run for city commission, he said.

"Hays is where I make my home," he said. "I'd like to see my son make his home here, and I just want to see the community succeed."

"I look and see there's all these things that need to be done for this community. I feel like I'll listen to the people and try to do what the people want to make this a better community."