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City of Hays declares water warning

2/28/2014

By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT

mkenwright@dailynews.net

The Hays City Commission declared a stage two water warning Thursday during its meeting.

The measure, which passed unanimously, is preemptive because city staff has projected water levels might decline to the warning's official level in mid- to late-summer, said Toby Dougherty, Hays city manager. The unscientific guess also estimates the water supply will reach emergency levels in 2015.

The city requested the declaration to stall the shortage. It also give residents time to anticipate the increased rates for excess outdoor watering tied to a water warning.

"Knowing that a lot of people plan their lawns, their gardens, a lot of that now, I would hate for people to plan a big garden, a lawn replacement progrm ... and then have it move to water warning, which is going to penalize them from a monetary standpoint," Dougherty said.

City parks and ball fields only will be watered to preserve the roots and new irrigation meters will not be hooked to the water system. The drought response plan allows the city to only grant permits for newly seeded lawns if they are warm-season grass, but Dougherty said he does not intend to issue them.

Outdoor water use will be restricted between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. Private wells might be regulated if the city pursues action with the state.

Swimming pools do not require as much water as lawns, but during an emergency they cannot be filled and city pools will be closed.

The supply of drinking water is not threatened because outdoor water use is the issue.

Other business on the agenda:

* Commissioners unanimously passed a measure to allocate an additional $91,000 from storm water funds to fully construct the levee trail/cap project of the Bike Hays System from Main to Eighth. The Kansas Department of Transportation agreed to pay $136,000 toward a section of the work if the city also contributed funds.

The city originally was set to pay only $100,000 because contract engineers initially estimated the project to cost $375,000, but they failed to account for the equipment needed to install the concrete on the raised levee surface. The cost then rose to $626,000.

No sales or property taxes go toward the trail project because alcohol and storm water taxes are used.

* Schwaller cast the lone dissenting vote for a measure that approved $458,566 for three contractors to chip seal and PolyPatch various streets, reconstruct 11th and repair brick streets and curbs around the city. The commissioner voiced a concern about the extent of the work not addressing more problems with streets.

Dougherty explained the request was low because the city anticipates funds might be needed for other projects. City staff can request more money if necessary.