The city of Hays is looking to build a second waterline to cross Interstate 70 that would serve the hotels, motels and retailers straddling busy U.S. Highway 183.

Estimated to cost about $1.5 million, Project Manager John Braun told the Hays City Commission at its regular work session Thursday that the second line is a much-needed back up.

“Many businesses vital to the economy and daily needs of the residents of Hays and surrounding areas have located north of I-70,” Braun told the commissioners. “The single 16-inch water main currently crossing under I-70 needs to have some redundancy. A failure of that water main could have catastrophic consequences in case of a fire north of I-70. The economic impact of being without water service north of I-70 for any length of time would be significant as well.”

Based on results of several options outlined in a modeling study by Bartlett & West Engineers, city staff recommended Thursday evening that the new waterline cross at Hall Street.

Construction would start in 2020. City Commissioners will take up the matter for a decision at their regular meeting March 14.

Braun said the line, about 4,600 linear feet, would connect a new 12-inch water main from 45th and Hall to an existing dead-end line along 48th Street west of the property line of Carrico Implement, Braun said.

Bids to design the waterline and a booster pump station were received Feb. 15. The low bid came in at $59,860 from Kaw Valley Engineering Inc., Junction City, a company that’s designed about half a dozen waterline projects for Hays, and done some bridge inspections for Ellis County.

The proposed booster station would back up an existing one, and make it possible to get higher water pressure in northwest parts of town, Braun said.

The booster station would be on city-owned property along west 41st Street east of Post Road, near city water well C-32.

Construction would start in 2020.

Homeowner complaints about special assessments

In other business, the city heard audience comments from Jeremy Green, 4112 Covenant Dr., in the King’s Gate First Addition.

Green told city commissioners that owners of the 52 lots in King’s Gate were blindsided recently when letters from the city informed them they owed a couple thousand dollars each in special assessments over 10 years totaling $82,163 for a new park built in their addition.

Green said buyers were told by Covenant Builders, 4101 Covenant Dr., and licensed general contractor Katherine Burnett that the park would be taken care of.

“Not at any time were we told we’re gonna have an assessment in two years or in six years,” Green said. “We were under the understanding that this came out of the current curb and guttering specials and that Covenant would take care of it.”

Green said he wasn’t pointing the finger at city commissioners, but asked that they look into it.

“We want the park. But at the end of the day, to blindside this many people and then to just go and build a park, we had no say in this park,” Green said, noting that residents read in The Hays Daily News in early summer that it had been approved.

“We were all happy, hootin’ and hollerin’ because we were told this park would go in when I built in 2013,” Green said, “and here we are, six years later.”

Green, who brought a petition signed by the homeowners, said he was speaking for the neighborhood.

“We were blindsided by the lady who sold a blind kid a dead parrot,” Green said. “I have no problem paying taxes but tell me I’m going to be paying taxes…. You’re going to call it a public city park, why are there only 52 homes in this town paying for it? It’s not a gated community.”

Addressing Green’s comments, Mayor Henry Schwaller IV said the city has a policy in place that each development have green space paid for by the developer, through specials assessments, or with money paid to the city.

“We’ve altered that policy somewhat because we tend to get the ground that nobody wants,” said Schwaller. “This development was a very special development, because the lots were not done quite right, it took awhile to get it through, the lots were the wrong size.”

City Attorney John Bird told Green that the proceedings were valid and that the city had followed the rules and regulations.

“The developer, because they have total control over the project at first, they’ll sign off on things that bind those lots later, but that’s really then between the developer and the people who purchase the lots later,” Bird said. “It sounds like you definitely didn’t have communication between each other. I’m not going to characterize whether it was by design or not. The fact of the matter is, the city’s duty is to do what it said it would do back when it took the development and accepted the plat. And that’s a commitment not just to the property owners in the area, but it’s a commitment to the community as a whole.”

The city didn’t have the option not to go forward with it, he said.

“Once the die is cast, the die is cast,” Bird said, saying the homeowners weren’t blindsided by the city.

“I get that,” Green said.

Bird added, “I don’t want you to leave thinking we’re telling you you don’t have a remedy,” he said, “you probably do have a remedy, it’s just not here.”

Green said there was no ill will toward the city.

“I want this commission to know, these are the kinds of deals that this builder does in this town, we have flood issues in our neighborhood, we’ve got several lawsuits, and something’s got to be done,” Green said. “We can’t just keep giving and giving and giving this builder, when there’s issues. They need to be addressed. We’re paying for them out of our pocket time after time because of this builder.”

City Commissioner James Meier thanked Green for speaking up.

“I do appreciate you coming, because it is important to note that we do use the general authority bonding of the city in order to make these developments happen,” Meier said. “Knowing that it’s a general obligation bond, even though it’s special assessed to the properties, it’s still a general obligation bond and so I think we do need to be made aware when these sorts of things happen because we’re under no requirement to bond for developers, and I think that this is a good discussion and good information for us to have.”

City Commissioner Sandy Jacobs thanked Green, who said he didn’t want to waste the commission’s time.

“You’re not wasting our time,” Jacobs said.

City Finance Director Kim Rupp also told the commission about a special assessment on three lots over 15 years in Heart of America Second Addition for $277,836 to pay for water, sanitary sewer, storm sewer and street improvements.

A look at Commerce Parkway land option

The commissioners also decided to move on to their meeting next week a decision to act on an option to purchase property in the southeast corner of 27th Street and Commerce Parkway.

The city in March 2018 purchased the 18-month irrevocable option for $50,000. Purchase price of the ground is $782,608.

“I think we made the decision to take the option for all the right reasons,” said Jacobs. “I think we still have those same reasons in front of us today.”

Meier gave a heads up on his vote next week.

“After speaking with our retail consultant I don’t think this is something that I can support,” he said. “But I think that the majority here supports it.”

R9 ranch water update

Schwaller also updated the commission on progress in the city’s years-long effort to pipe water from its R9 ranch in Edwards County.

“The chief engineer of the Division of Water Resources finished the order as he said he would,” Schwaller said, noting it’s now under review by DWR attorneys.

An approved order allows the city and state to start the water transfer process, Dougherty said.

“It’ll be approved but with a clause to say that if we aren’t successful in negotiating the transfer process then none of the changes take effect,” he said. “Then we’ll start pressing the three agency heads to begin moving forward with the water transfer process.”

“So one step is down, two more to go,” Schwaller added.

Also the commission heard from Adam Schibi, student body president at Fort Hays State University, who told the commission that April 13 will be The Big Event, when faculty, staff and students do volunteer projects to give back to the community. Schibi said the association is looking for both city projects and volunteers.