City Commissioner Sandy Jacobs said for the past few weeks she’s noticed the water pressure at her house has varied at times.

“I keep running outside to make sure I don’t have anything running because I’ve noticed that,” Jacobs said on Thursday night during the regular meeting of the Hays City Commission at City Hall, 1507 Main.

City water pressure can vary right now as painting wraps up on the city’s 1-million-gallon water tower in northeast Hays, said Jeff Crispin, director of water resources.

Crispin told the commissioners the tower by Sternberg Museum is empty while painting is underway, so the city is operating solely from its 500-gallon water tower north of town by Walmart.

“Obviously right now without that tower, some of the pressures in town are a little bit difficult,” he said. “So we’re hoping that with this next week that tower should be back in service.”

The city’s water system is set up so that it’s not only a source of water for Hays, but also helps regulate pressures in the system, he explained.

“There have been a lot of questions about why is the tower empty. In order to remediate lead and to repaint that tower, you actually have to have it empty,” Crispin said. “While they were remediating it, you don’t want anything getting into the water, so it has to be empty. And also, to paint it you can’t paint a tower with it full of water because it actually sweats.”

Water main breaks, like the one that occurred at the intersection of 22nd Street and Vine Street on Thursday can also contribute.

Commissioner Shaun Musil asked about the frequency of breaks in recent weeks.

“We’ve had a lot of rain,” Crispin said. “The ground shifts quite a bit with the rain that we’ve had.” Across the country and across Kansas, in Topeka and Wichita as well as other cities, water main breaks are being reported.

The average leak takes a city crew around four hours to fix, he said.

“Luckily our crews are quick to respond to those leaks and we get on the scene,” Crispin said. “You have to call in locates before you start digging. So our first response is to try to stop the water from flowing. That also takes people out at the water plant to slow things down, to make sure that we provide water for our citizens.”

In other water-related business, the city commissioners heard from Eric Farrow with HDR Engineering Inc., Lees Summit, Mo., who gave an update on renovation progress at the city’s wastewater treatment plant at 1498 E. U.S. Highway 40 Bypass.

Farrow said the contracted price of $28.4 million remains, with no change orders to date to hike the price. With 388 days remaining, he said completion is likely for July 15, with the project 62 days ahead of schedule.

“It’s really coming along nicely despite the wet weather,” Farrow said.

The majority of the piping is buried underground and completed, but the project is not quite to the point where the processing equipment is being tested. It’s likely the equipment will be started up in the next couple months and testing will begin then, he said.

In other business, the commission:

• Asked the city staff to start developing a policy on how to address requests related to city parks for expansions and additions of equipment and facilities. Henry Schwaller IV made the request, and asked that it be ready for the commissioners to discuss at their February retreat.

• Approved Joseph Boeckner for a 3-year term on the Hays Area Planning Commission.

• Received Mayor James Meier’s recommendation of Tony Dopita to a three-year term on the Airport Advisory Committee.

• Amended a city ordinance governing fence height on the side yard of corner residential lots from the current height of 42 inches. If adopted, the change would allow a much taller fence, up to 72 inches. The original ordinance was adopted in 2016 as part of changes to the Unified Development Code. Variances have been approved previously for the taller fences, Wood noted.

• Amended a city ordinance governing accessory building height on residential lots to remove what Wood described as confusing references to Single Story and Two-Story. References to the number of stories will be removed, if approved, and instead the ordinance would note the maximum height to the peak of the roof shall not exceed 18 feet or the height of the principal dwelling, whichever is greater.