By NICK BUDD
Despite objections from two local pool service contractors, the Hays City Commissioner on Thursday voted to prohibit the drainage of pools into alleyways in Hays.
The change also creates an water-wasting exemption for those draining pools and hot tubs.
The idea for the ordinance was brought up by Commissioner Ron Mellick at a June work session after he noticed the practice was damaging alleyways and “ticking off” neighbors who lived close to people who drained pools and hot tubs into alleys.
“We’ve spent a lot of money trying to upgrade the alleys. … When Public Works tries to work over these alleys, some of them are better than others and some of them have a steep slope, which makes it hard to keep the rock in there that public works puts in there,” Mellick said when raised the issue.
According to City Manager Toby Dougherty, before the ordinance was passed, the city “reached out” to property owners who were draining pools and hot tubs into alleys and they had “limited amount of success” in stopping them. Property owners will now face a $250 fine if they are caught draining pools into unpaved alleyways.
Several concerns were brought up during the meeting by commissioners and residents. Henry Hartman of Kleerwater Inc. told commissioners that throughout his 40 years in the pool-servicing business, he never saw alley damage caused by pool drainage.
“If the alleyway is constructed properly, (the water) will flow down the side of the alley,” Hartman said. “If you’re just back flushing a sand filler, it usually takes about two minutes with a 60 gallon per minute pump — that’s like leaving a garden hose in the alleyway for five minutes. It doesn’t create puddles or destroy the rockbed. It really doesn’t do anything harmful.
“Imposing a $250 fine for putting a little bit of water down the alley, to me is ludicrous,” he added. “I’ve got approximately 250 to 300 customers … in this town and about every single one of them backwashes into the alleyway.”
Mayor Henry Schwaller said fining people was “too onerous” and offered the idea of putting together an education program about the issue.
Commissioner Eber Phelps supported the measure, stating the fine could serve as “an ace in the hole” for those who drain pools into alleyways.
“I think if people are cognizant of the fact that there is a pending fine, they will look for alternative ways to drain their pools,” he said.
Mellick mentioned past experiences that residents encountered where somebody drained a pool into an alleyway and the city had to repair it. Two weeks later, the same person drained their pool again, and the city had to come back and repair the damaged alley again.
“People say that if it rains, we’ve got the same problem,” Mellick said. “There’s a difference between rain and people draining pools — one is Mother Nature and the other is somebody doing it intentionally.
“This is not for the people that are community-minded, who care about their neighbors and care about their city. This ordinance would only affect people who are doing this intentionally.”
According to Dougherty, there are approximately 134 pools in the city of Hays and an unknown number of hot tubs.