With city alleys saturated by heavy rains this spring and summer, the Public Works Department is taking a different tack on repairing them.

City manager Toby Dougherty told the Hays City Commissioners on Thursday evening that instead of using crushed concrete, as has been done in the past, the city is going to try harder rock.

“We’re going to know the cost perspective when we start figuring out how much rock it’s going to take to address these things,” Dougherty told the commissioners at their regular meeting at City Hall. “I haven’t seen the tabulation on how many man hours we’ve spent. We had two crews working for about a month afterwards trying to get the alleys back.”

Trash and recycle collection at one point were moved curbside while the alleys were saturated to keep the big trucks from tearing up the alleys.

The city typically uses crushed concrete in the alleys, as well as some limestone in the past, but those are both soft materials that break down, he said.

Public Works director Jesse Rohr has located some harder rock from a quarry in southeastern Kansas.

“We know its going to be more expensive, but the payoff might be good,” Dougherty said.

“We had a lot of crushed concrete on hand. When we remove a street we haul it up north and we crush it and we’re able to put it back down. It’s cheap, but it’s really not effective,” he explained. “Concrete breaks down and it becomes mushy, and when it gets wet, you get a saturation. You sink.”

Rock, Dougherty said, is slower to degrade and creates a harder surface that drains water a little better.

“It’s just more expensive on the front side, but I think what we’ll find is the input will pay off,” he said. “We may have to bring this stuff by the train car load if we find a rock we like.”

So far the city has tried the harder rock on alleys between Country Lane and Willow and between Eisenhower and MacArthur.

“We’re putting down this rock in some alleys we know we’re having some problems with,” he said. “We’re going to evaluate and with your street maintenance program next year, assuming this starts working out, you’re probably going to see some big budget allocations to go in and start fixing some of our alleys to move away from the concrete and the limestone. Hopefully we’ll get a little more longevity out of these alleys.”

In other projects, Dougherty reported that:

• Public Works employees worked on stabilization of Montgomery Ditch just south of Eighth Street. Water running through the ditch was eroding the stream bed, so Public Works employees dug out the side of the stream bed, installed a concrete footing, then installed a concrete retaining wall, and then resolved the top of the soil back down to the wall.

“This will prevent the erosion for a long period of time,” Dougherty said. Cost of material and labor was about $37,000 from storm water money.

The city’s Service Division did some similar work further down the ditch, between Fifth and Sixth streets.

“That’s a very poorly designed drainage area,” Dougherty said. “We’ve taken some good steps to get it fixed up.”

• The new play feature was installed in time for the opening of the city swimming pool.

“I hear it’s a big hit,” Dougherty said. “People like it.”

• Skate Park improvements, three new obstacles, have been completed at Aubel Bickle Park at 30th Street and Sherman Ave.

“I drove by the other day and I saw some kids doing dangerous things and enjoying it,” Dougherty said.

• Free mulch for the city was given away June 8 and continues to be available to anyone who wants to come and get it.

“We’d help load them up,” Dougherty said. “We’re going to continue this, and try to promote it to get people out there.”

• Progress on 41st Street east of Home Depot continues. With a project cost of $711,000, workers are just now finishing up the culverts under the road and are starting the roadway up on the west end, he said.

“Things are actually progressing pretty well there,” Dougherty said, “despite the rain.”

• 43rd Street repairs are nearing completion.

“They should be up and running by the end of this month,” Dougherty said. “I was up there the day before yesterday and it looks like they’re cutting expansion joints in some spots.” All that remains, he said, is clean up and punch work.

• Work on Ash, Elm and Fourth near Fort Hays State University is now underway, with waterline improvements done, and road work now beginning and Fort Hays making some changes to the parking.

“There’s a lot going on, so it’s best just to avoid the area,” Dougherty said.