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Water tap fee hike floods city commission talks




City commissioners were updated on proposed fee increases at Thursday's work session at city hall.

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City commissioners were updated on proposed fee increases at Thursday's work session at city hall.

A proposed increase for water tap fees would charge, for instance, $1,500 for installing a 5/8-inch tap and water meter, an increase from the current fee of $440.

Commissioner Henry Schwaller IV was not in favor of the proposal.

"We've been criticized because it's expensive to build a house in Hays," he said. "I guarantee you add $1,100 on the price of a tap, you're only going to add to that.

"I'm going to vote against it, and I'm going to be very loud about it, too. If we can't make money on the back end, shame on us."

The proposed water tap increase would meet expenses, not generate revenue. Schwaller thought the cost was too much.

"This is very high, very onerous," he said. "I understand we want to recoup our costs. Why don't we do that another way? Raise the rates."

"At some point, somebody has to pay for this," City Manager Toby Dougherty said.

"There's two pricing models: One, where you charge the people 100 percent for what they are getting from you; the other is, you charge them a reasonable price, and you make it by providing the service, the commodity," Schwaller said. "This pricing structure, for this particular product, presumes we make no money on selling water. If we're not doing that, then shame on us. The water rate needs to be adjusted."

Schwaller believes the increase for all water users would be minimal if part of the water tap fee was incorporated into the water rates.

Commissioners agreed to put discussion of water tap fees on next week's meeting agenda.

Tournament fees at Fort Hays Municipal Golf Course also were discussed.

The Fort Hays Municipal Golf Course advisory board has recommended a fee increase. If approved, the fee for 18-hole tournaments would increase by $100, and the fee for a nine-hole tournament would increase $50 for the first 60 participants. An 18-hole tournament would be $500 for weekdays and $600 for weekends. The nine-hole tournament fee would be $250 for weekdays and $300 for weekends.

Unlike other cities in the area, where the pro shop is run by city staff, the city of Hays has a contractor who runs the pro shop. The contractor is expected to retire in two years, the same time the contract runs out. At that time, Director of Parks Jeff Boyle intends to look at the fee structure again.

"In January 2015, I'm coming to the city manager with my recommendations for the future of the golf course as far as the pro shop operation goes," he said. "We've been looking at this year and next year's revenues. ... We're evaluating there, and January 2015, I'm going to sit down with the city manager and say this is where we're at and where we need to go and why."