A proposal for construction of a wildlife fence at Hays Regional Airport will move forward. City commissioners on Thursday will be asked to approve a work authorization for related design services.

The project is required by the Federal Aviation Administration, which will pay 90 percent of associated costs. The federal agency also provides grants for other airport projects and subsidizes the city’s commercial air service.

The wildlife fence has been identified by federal officials as the city’s No. 1 airport priority, meaning the city could risk losing money for future projects if it fails to complete the project.

The total cost of the fence is estimated at $2 million — a fact several commissioners bemoaned at Thursday’s work session.

“We could do a lot with $2 million,” Mayor Eber Phelps said.

Federal officials initially required the wildlife fence several years ago, after deer were spotted at the airport during a 2010 inspection. City Manager Toby Dougherty said city staff delayed the project as long as possible, but no longer can afford to do so.

“This was identified by FAA a long time ago, and we’ve adopted the stance we’re not going to put this in front of you until they tell us we’re not getting another dime until we do this,” Dougherty said. “They’ve pretty much told us that.”

There are other significant projects local officials hope to complete at the airport, such as replacing a loader, repairing the eastern taxiway, constructing a new taxiway or even someday acquiring additional land for hangar space. All of those projects could not move forward without federal funding, which would be withheld until the fence is completed.

The fence would need to be constructed in 2017 to meet the FAA requirement. Next week, commissioners only will consider a contract for design services at a total cost of $99,950. The city’s cost share would be $9,995.

The fence would be 10 feet tall and enclose the entire perimeter of airport property. There also would be a 1-foot barbed wire outrigger above the fence and a 3-foot skirt below the fence to deter digging animals. FAA has established criteria for the project.

“I don’t think it’s a bad project. I think a 10-foot fence is a little bit overkill,” Commissioner Lance Jones said. “I’ve hit deer with my car before, and it does some damage. I can only imagine what it would do to a jet plane.”

“The probability is low, but the severity is high,” said John Braun, assistant director of public works.

Also at Thursday’s work session, the commission moved forward on a contract for sewer cleaning services, which will be on next week’s agenda. It also had a 25-minute executive session to discuss labor union negotiations and confidential material related to proprietary information.

Commissioner Henry Schwaller IV was absent.