The purchase of two tracts of property in the City of Hays’ Smoky Hill River wellfield will be voted on at next week’s city commission meeting, after commissioners spoke in favor of the move during Thursday’s work session.

The city has been working since 2003 to acquire property its water wells are located on to secure future access and also eliminate monthly lease payments. Commissioner Henry Schwaller IV spoke in favor of the land purchases, and noted more than 40 percent of the city’s municipal water supply comes from this wellfield, which was reconfigured in the early 2000s.

“This is very helpful to us in the long-term,” Schwaller said. “Should — and it probably won’t happen — but should somehow the geology of this change, we would have the ability to relocate wells in these sites, and that’s actually very important. And from experience, it’s rather difficult, and that’s a good card to be holding.”

The wellfield is located south of Hays near Schoenchen. City staff is recommending purchase of 36.9 acres of land from the Dinges Family Trust for a cost of $225,000.

The land is home to a production well and a monitoring well. The extra property could provide an opportunity for future well development if needed, and in the meantime would be turned over to the city’s farm manager. As such, the city expects additional income could be generated by the land. The monthly lease for the property is currently just more than $400.

The second tract of property is a 3.7-acre tract belonging to Brandon and Brandi Zimmerman, which houses one well. The cost is $80,000. A permanent access easement for surrounding land also has been negotiated in case the city ever needs to relocate the present well.

The city also pays approximately $400 per month for this tract of property. The leases do not have an end date and are adjusted regularly to account for CPI increase.

While the city is in an ongoing process to secure water rights to a ranch it owns in Edwards County, the Smoky Hill wellfield will remain of vital importance, City Manager Toby Dougherty said. Dougherty noted the land purchases are expected to potentially save the city money in time.

“We have no intention of abandoning the Smoky Hill wellfield or the Big Creek wellfield, regardless of what happens with the R9 (Ranch). Those are always going to be part of the city’s … water rights going forward,” Dougherty said. “So then it just becomes about money. It’s about a lease that doesn’t have an end date that we know we’re not going to essentially abandon that has automatic inflators built in. There’s no time like the present to monetize that lease, to buy it out.”

For more from Thursday’s city commission work session, watch