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Councilman isn't blaming Hays for move

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

RUSSELL -- The decision by the Hays City Commission to pull out of the cooperative water-search venture probably was a wise one, Russell City Councilman Chuck Bean thinks.

"I don't blame them for that," Bean said prior to Thursday's vote to sever a long-running relationship in the Public Wholesale Water Supply District No. 15. "It seems to me Russell has been riding on Hays' coattails on water issues."

Outgoing Russell City Manager Ralph Wise isn't so sure.

He sought to smooth relations between the two cities after members of Russell's City Council in late August criticized Hays for what its members suggested were selfish.

"I'm going to do everything I can to repair those relationships," Wise said shortly after Russell officials turned down a request to join with Hays in a study to determine if small dams along the Smoky Hill River would help replenish water systems when rains fall.

Part of the frustration, Wise said, falls to the offer by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help pay for that study. While the Corps offered to do that, it hasn't released the results of a study on the availability of water from Lake Wilson, a study cut short because of ongoing federal budget issues.

"I don't think there's a level of distrust," Wise said, a message he ultimately passed along to Hays City Manager Toby Dougherty.

"We've been at it a long while and we haven't done a lot," said Russell Councilman Larry Daugherty, "I really hate to see it. But then I'm not surprised at it."

"Russell has been standing in big brother's shadow," Bean said of the relationship between Russell and Hays, and he'd also like to see Russell separate itself from that situation and strike out on its own in search of water.

"I honestly think we're capable of standing on our own, and I feel here, we need to do our own thing."

Bean, however, has been a strong proponent of Russell focusing instead its attention to water it already owns in Cedar Bluff Reservoir. Russell Mayor Carol Dawson named Bean and several other Russell residents to a committee to study that option.

Russell's needs are more immediate, he said, while Hays has relied on conservation to strengthen its situation as far as water is concerned.

Building a pipeline will make water use from Cedar Bluff to Russell's Pfeifer wellfield more efficient, he said.

Allowing it to flow down the river is "just crazy," Bean said. "Extremely wasteful."

But a pipeline could cost more than $20 million.

"Right now, it definitely looks like a pipeline is doable," he said. "Construction costs are going up $880,000 a year. We're not going to be able to wait another six to seven years for another dry spell. I think this is Russell's last stand for a pipeline."

Bean also thinks it might be wise for Russell to sell its 17 percent share in the Edwards County ranch Hays and Russell owns.

"I want a solution to Russell's water problems in five to six years, not 25 to 30 years," Bean said.