At its work session Thursday evening, the Hays City Commission heard a presentation from Paul Briseno, assistant city manager, about the new wastewater treatment plant required for the community because of excess phosphorous and nitrogen in treated water. Water and sewer rates will have to increase to pay for it.

The wastewater treatment plant was built approximately 60 years ago, and there have been substantive changes to meet more stringent Kansas Department of Health and Environment requirements.

The new plant needs to be done by the end of 2017.

The plant is expected to cost between $26 million to $28 million.

City staff are recommending moving forward with the design-build process instead of the traditional design-bid-build process.

"This process works well for most of our projects," of the traditional bid process, Briseno said. "What it doesn't work so well on is those large, multi-faceted projects with a lot of moving parts that we have to rely on 24/7."

He brought up the parking lot at the sports complex, shade structures and problems at Hays Aquatic Park.

The city had difficulty getting the issues resolved due to finger pointing, he said.

"Any project you're going to have issues," Briseno said. "If we can create a process that eliminates a lot of lack of collaboration and communication, that's what we're bringing before you today."

"Ninety percent of the projects we do, design-bid-build works perfectly," said Toby Dougherty, city manager. "When you're doing a street or something straight forward, it's pretty hard to get the engineering wrong."

The situation is different with the issues the city doesn't deal with every day, Dougherty said.

The project will cost a little more up-front.

Private industry has moved to design-build for more complex projects, Briseno said.

There will be one single contract for the design and the construction, and the city will look for companies with expertise in wastewater treatment. A representative would be hired for the city to oversee the project.

Mayor Henry Schwaller IV was concerned about the liability of the consultant if the project has problems. He was assured the city will have legal recourse.

He said finding the right consultant was essential,.

Schwaller instructed staff to develop a flow chart showing how the processes work.

The city would like to have everything in place for construction to begin this summer.

In addition, Director of Finance Kim Rupp said water and sewer rates have to keep up with the cost of the plant, regular upkeep and operations. He would like to order a water and sewer rate study.

He will look at types of funding including bonds and some state revolving loans, but rates will have to go up to pay for the plant.

* * *

In other business, the Hays city commissioners discussed signing a legal agreement with Russell regarding the R9 Ranch, which Hays purchased in 1995 as a future source of water.

Russell purchased 18 percent of the ranch and water rights.

Russell agreed to cooperate on applications, documents and to continue to support the project.

The project will be governed by Kansas water laws.

City Manager Toby Dougherty said it is a long-term water source, and it is unknown when the city will need it. It depends upon conservation, growth and if the area continues in drought.

In other business, the commission discussed the annexation of 48th and General Hays Road at the request of the owners. They want to rezone the area as commercial instead of agriculture.