Hays City Commission hears water conservation education updates

BY CORIE LYNN

This week’s Hays City Commission meeting saw a variety of reports read to the commissioners.

The first report was the yearly water conservation update, which came from Hays Water Conservation Specialist Holly Dickman.

She began by giving the drought forecast, explaining that the Hays area is currently in a moderate drought.

“Drought outlook through Mays shows that we are to have drought persisting or drought developing in areas to the south of us,” Dickman said.

She then moved into the water conservation programs that were held over the course of the year. These included rebates for toilets, showerheads and buffalo grass as well as education and outreach.

The latter was forced to adjust due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Dickman reported that they were able to switch from cable to streaming ads, strengthen their social media presence and even post videos of at-home water conservation ideas.

She concluded by introducing a new partnership with 4-H called 4-H Water Ambassadors. This program allows students to train in water conservation to then present to classmates and club members.

“I got the idea studying Texas’ water ambassador program, and I approached the 4-H agent here in Ellis County, Susan Schlichting, and she was excited about it,” Dickman said.

The program currently has four students, but Dickman hopes the program continues to grow.

The next report came from Hays Director of Parks, Jeff Boyle. He presented the commissioners with the decision to move forward with the construction of new, v-shaped shade structures at the Bickle-Schmidt Sports Complex.

Though there are shade structures currently at the sports complex, they do not provide enough shade to those in the stands.

“This is the most complained-about issue we have at the complex right now,” he said.

Following Boyle, Hays Director of Finance Kim Rupp presented a resolution authorizing the sale of general obligation bonds and an ordinance to amend the D&L land and development CID state date and development agreement.

Rupp presented the former as a way to reimburse the City for the North Vine Corridor project. He explained that it was initially paid for out of idle funds and through the Kansas Department of Transportation.

Rupp went on to state that the “financial advisor reviewed our process and gave us a little bit of an update on the bond market conditions.”

They have chosen to sell the bonds as the market is favorable for the sale at present.

The ordinance Rupp presented next was an amendment to the D&L Land and Development Agreement. Both the ordinance and the resolution passed.

The commissioners then approved the City Manager Employment Agreement and City of Hays Assistant City Manager Collin Bielser’s progress report.

In this report, Bielser updated the commissioners on the activities of city departments.

This included snow removal by Public Works, outreach by the Department of Water Resources and Spring preparations by the Parks Department. He also presented an update from the Hays Police Department.

“Sergeant David Vlasing provided verbal de-escalation training for the entire department,” Bielser said. “He is one of two certified trainers in verbal de-escalation.”

As the meeting drew to a close, the commissioners discussed the energy issues the area encountered the previous week.

Commissioner Ron Mellick thanked the city employees, such as police officers and the solid waste crew, who continued to work outside during the freezing temperatures.

At Commissioner Shaun Musil’s request, Hays City Manager Toby Dougherty spoke on the ways in which the City addressed the energy issues.

“When Midwest energy asked customers to cut back on their usage in order to decrease the load,” Dougherty said, “we turned the thermostats down and some of the lights off in all of the buildings, but also Jeff Christman, Water Resources Director, took the water reclamation facility and then the water treatment facility offline, ran them on generator in order to decrease the load.”

According to Dougherty, these measures helped and the City learned that they should run the treatment facility on generators more often.

With the conclusion of commissioner’s comments, the meeting adjourned.

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