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City votes to dissolve water partnership





Hays city commissioners voted at Thursday night's regular meeting to part ways with the city of Russell on the two communities' joint wholesale water district.

Provisions of charter documents of Wholesale Water Supply District No. 15 allow for any member to remove itself from the district with an ordinance of the governing body. City Manager Toby Dougherty presented commissioners with such an ordinance, which passed in a 3-0 vote. Commissioners Henry Schwaller IV and Barbara Wasinger were absent.

The water district, formed in the 1990s as a vehicle to bring water to the communities from Edwards County's Circle K Ranch, has no assets or holdings, Dougherty said.

However, there is one item of record identified with the water district -- an application through the district on behalf of the cities of Hays and Russell for Lake Wilson water rights, should they become available.

"We think it's highly unlikely that (Lake Wilson) will ever be identified as a publicly available water source," Dougherty said. "But it's the only application on file.

"If the city commission so chose in the future, the city of Hays could put an application on file by itself. We would be No. 2 in line. It doesn't harm us in any way not to be part of that original application."

Mayor Troy Hickman pointed out the ordinance does not affect the cities' joint ownership of Circle K Ranch. Hays owns 82 percent of the ranch, and Russell owns 18 percent.

Dissolving the partnership in the water district, Commissioner Ron Mellick said, was something Hays city commissioners did reluctantly but hinged upon Russell officials losing confidence in the partnership.

"(They) think that we're taking advantage of them, which I do not believe that we are," he said.

"But when you have a partnership and one partner is not happy, then the best thing to do is dissolve that partnership."

He said, however, Hays is leaving the door open should Russell wish to form a partnership in the future.

Another factor that contributed to difficulties in the partnership, Commissioner Kent Steward said, was the cities' differing levels of water needs. Mellick agreed.

"Russell has an urgent need now," Mellick said. "We're looking long term.

"When this was formed, we both had urgent needs. But we, through conservation, rehabilitation of our wellfields, we've pushed our needs out a ways."

In a related agenda item, Dougherty updated commissioners on the city of Hays water watch, implemented approximately six weeks ago. Residents have been asked to voluntarily cut back on outdoor watering. In addition, city staff has cut back on watering of parks and ball fields.

Although there's been a decline in water usage and a small level of recharge in the Big Creek area throughout the time period, the water watch will continue until sufficient recharge of the wellfields is attained, Dougherty said.

Other agenda items included a 2012 street maintenance program update from Public Works Director I.D. Creech and a progress report of city of Hays recent accomplishments by Assistant City Manager Paul Briseno.