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Businesses support bid for new airline




The Hays City Commission learned about a community effort to land SkyWest Airlines as Hays Regional Airport's carrier at its work session Thursday.

Toby Dougherty, Hays city manager, said city officials sought contributions from Hays Area Chamber of Commerce and Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development. Hays Medical Center also volunteered to help subsidize the airline's bid.

Great Lakes Airlines, the current carrier, submitted two bids of $1.7 million and $1.5 million, and SkyWest's bid was $2.3 million.

The U.S. Department of Transportation chooses the carrier because they subsidize the airport, but the city is taking preemptive steps if the federal department prefers one of the cheaper bids. The chamber pledged $25,000, and the coalition and HaysMed both promised $50,000 to help close the gap between the airlines' bids.

Dougherty shared a draft of a letter addressed to the DOT's Essential Air Service program stating the city's case for SkyWest. The commission might approve the communication at its next meeting.

An excerpt stated, "Like any rural economy, our ability to retain existing companies and institutions, support the growth of these entities, and recruit new companies to our business friendly city, depends on having reliable and efficient air service."

In other business:

* Bernie Kitten, utilities director, discussed the city's water supply. The region is in a "persistent drought" and the forecast is "gloomy." The city is under a water watch advisory, and the situation might worsen to water warning status next year.

* Nicholas Willis, stormwater/water conservation superintendent, updated the commission on initiatives to preserve water. The shower head program has distributed 654 units since it was changed, but city staff members are considering approaches to further improve it.

The washing machine rebate program has exhausted all but $1,200 of the $15,000 it was allocated this year. The 2014 budget has set aside $20,000 for it next year, and staff wants only to make machines in consortium of energy efficiency tiers 2 and 3 eligible for the program.

The city also wants to encourage use of more efficient toilets. Rebates will range from $50 to $150 for toilets that flush fewer gallons of water than older models. Urinals also are targeted, and the city will offer a $300 rebate for each more efficient fixture.

Willis previewed a new city website that will promote water-saving programs and provide information on sustainability.

* The commission decided not to have another vote on concealed carry in city buildings.