By NICK BUDD
At Thursday’s Hays City Commission work session, commissioners will discuss an amendment to the city’s code of ordinances that would impose a fine on residents who drain pools and hot tubs into alleys. Commissioner Ron Mellick brought up the idea earlier in June, and city staff will present the proposed amendments to commissioners at the work session.
“My concern is that when water is drained, it is causing ruts, sinking — and it ticks off neighbors,” Mellick said at a recent meeting. “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, and I’d like to see us have an ordinance along with a fine of around $200 to help cover our costs to go out and repair them.”
At the June 5 work session, when Mellick offered the alternative of draining the pools into the gutter system, some commissioners voiced concerned such drainage could lead residents to violate the current water restrcitions. Currently, the city does not allow outdoor watering between the hours of 10 a.m. and 9 p.m.
“The current ordinance is written for the outdoor usage of water, for example, the sprinkling, car washing and stuff like that,” City Manager Toby Dougherty said. “I checked with Police Chief Don Scheibler, and they have never enforced people draining pools. If they see water coming down, they follow it back to the source.”
“I want to make it clear that I’m objecting to that,” Commissioner Kent Steward said. “That’s clearly a use of outside water from the city system. I’m OK with rewriting the ordinance, but I hate just looking the other way. It’s clearly against the law, and we’re just going to say ‘We don’t enforce that’? That is a terrible way to run a city.”
Commissioner Eber Phelps offered the solution of simply fining the offenders the cost of repairing the alleyway.
The proposed ordinance that will be presented to commissioners states: “It is unlawful for any person to allow substantial amounts of water to escape and/or drain from a swimming pool or hot tub on private property onto unpaved alleys or rights of way; provided that the term ‘substantial’ shall mean an amount sufficient to cause a discernible flow of water reaching the street, gutter or other drainage system or the discernible saturation of the unpaved alley or right-of-way.”
The amount of the fine has not been decided. The updated ordinance also would state water users are “expressly permited to allow substantial amount of water to drain from swimming pools or hot tubs … into storm sewers, sanitary sewers and impervious curb frontages along their property.”