By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Impending changes in schedules of flights leaving Hays on SkyWest Airlines will affect departure times for passengers, Hays City Manager Toby Dougherty told commissioners at Thursday's regular Hays City Commission meeting.
However, Dougherty stressed, SkyWest still will have its weekly 12 flights leaving from Hays Regional Airport.
"It is unlike Great Lakes, where we dealt with unreliable service," Dougherty said. "We're still going to have the service (with SkyWest). Times just might not be as optimal."
The new schedule, effective in March, will call for a later morning departure, at approximately 10 a.m., from Hays because of the airline's change in its fleet of jets, Dougherty said. The current early morning departure is 6:40 a.m. There will be a brief period, during the month of February, where there will be no morning flights at all from Hays, but there will be two afternoon flights.
SkyWest was welcomed to Hays this summer after a frustrating experience with its former carrier, Great Lakes Airlines.
Delays and cancellations by Great Lakes had reached more than 60 percent before ending its service in Hays in March.
Under SkyWest, usage has increased from 729 the first month in August to 947 by October.
"Everybody I talk to just loves the new airline service," Commissioner Shaun Musil said. "So this is just a bump" in the road.
Commissioners were visibly disappointed with the news and encouraged Dougherty to check further into the schedule changes.
"We're going to keep pushing for a better (morning) schedule," Dougherty said.
City Attorney John Bird brought up a mailer that arrived in Hays mailboxes this week, a solicitation by an independent company called HomeServe USA Repair Management Corp. to buy insurance on their city water lines.
Bird wanted to caution citizens that purchasing water-line insurance is not something the city has endorsed.
"They make it appear it's a big problem," Bird said of HomeServe's solicitation for water-line insurance. "But this is not something we have recommended."
In other business Thursday, commissioners approved unanimously to lift water watch restrictions implemented in September 2012 through the city's Drought Conservation Plan.
Bernie Kitten, director of utilities for the city of Hays, showed to commissioners a graph projected out to September that showed "Big Creek is well above 'watch' conditions."
Kitten complimented residents on their willingness to conserve water when necessary.
"In this town, when we do go into a watch, they do change," their water usage, Kitten said.
Kitten said the area still is classified as "abnormally dry," but based on water levels in the Smoky Hill River, it is safe to move out of the "water watch" phase.
Those restrictions included not watering outdoors between noon and 7 p.m. from June 1 to Sept. 30 and not washing down sidewalks, driveways and parking lots without a permit.
Other water-saving methods still are in place.
Also in Thursday's meeting, commissioners approved a resolution to establish urban area boundary lines and urban functional classification of streets; a $4.50 per passenger facilitation charge flying SkyWest Airlines out of Hays; and a 2-percent one-time pay bonus for all city employees for 2015 and continuation of the current pay plan.