Ellis County Commissioners may not get their wish for a $1 million contribution from Hays to the $10.8 million Northwest Business Corridor project.


Hays City Commissioners on Thursday said they will table until at least June any discussion of giving more money for the project.


"I think because of this COVID-19 thing, and we rely on sales tax heavily to fund our budget, that we shouldn’t be discussing this until we see where we’re at," said City Commissioner Ron Mellick at the commission’s regular work session on May 7.


"We have to take care of ourselves first," Mellick said. "I don’t want to even think about discussing this until we have a full grasp of what our budget is going to look like, and what it looks like even for next year."


In mid-April, County Commissioner Dustin Roths suggested at a county commission meeting that the city give the county $358,000 a year for two years for the corridor project. The city officially received the request made in a letter that arrived last week.


Already the city in February gave the county $284,000 for the corridor. That money was left-over sales tax proceeds from a 10-year countywide sales tax that expired in September 2019.


Voters in April approved a new quarter-cent countywide general purpose sales tax. Like the previous sales tax, it must be split proportionally between the county, Hays, Ellis, Victoria and Schoenchen. That tax starts Oct. 1 at cash registers.


Mayor Shaun Musil said it frustrated him to hear comments that the city owes the county more money for the project.


"I think we owe the county to work together with them," Musil said. "I’m for their project they’re doing, but this isn’t our project. If we can help them, I think we should. We’ve all got our own issues that we have to deal with financially now. I just think we need to be smart about how we do that."


City Manager Toby Dougherty said that between 2013 and 2018, the city commission gave up the city’s share of the previous half-cent sales tax. Estimated at a contribution of a little over $8 million, the city portion helped fund renovation projects at the city-county law enforcement center and the courthouse, and construction of an EMS building.


"It’s premature at this time to decide what we will do with our portion of that sales tax," said Commissioner Michael Berges, also citing the June retreat to hammer out funding priorities.


The 55-mph bypass around Hays for north-south US-183 highway is considered key to a planned $40 million private travel plaza development for trucks and super loads off Interstate 70 in the city limits.


"The business corridor I think is really, really important to our community in a lot of ways," said City Commissioner Sandy Jacobs. "How we participate in that activity, I think we’ll decide as a body."


City Commissioner Mason Ruder recused himself from the discussion, noting he works for the county.