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Two-term commissioner focuses on planning, budgeting

By DAWNE LEIKER

dleiker@dailynews.net

Ron Mellick wants to keep the city of Hays on a pay-as-you go path. Having served two terms as Hays city commissioner, Mellick said it's big-picture budgeting that will help keep the city on the right course.

"It's all about planning and budgeting," Mellick said in a March interview. "We can do about anything if we plan for it and we budget for it.

"It's impulse spending that gets all of us in trouble. That's the big, big thing that I want to make sure we stay the course now that we have finally gotten here."

Mellick is one of five candidates for three commission seats in the April 2 election. Other candidates are Shaun Musil, Commissioner Eber Phelps, Todd Gabel and Dominic Pianalto.

Commissioners need to know how to say "no" occasionally, Mellick said, if a city funding request is not in the budget.

In addition, maintaining reserve accounts should remain a city priority.

Keeping money in reserve accounts is important for several reasons, Mellick said, including being prepared both for unforeseen emergencies and potential downturns in sales tax collections.

Those sales tax collections, he said, could be impacted by the depopulation of the region.

"We have to look at this as a big bathtub," Mellick said. "It's not just Hays.

"We may be growing a little bit, but we're losing population from all of western Kansas."

Cultivating a collaborative attitude among the communities in the region is important, he said.

"Years ago, we were competing with each surrounding community and now we're all in the same boat," he said. "Everybody has to promote western Kansas."

Water remains at the top of the list of Hays' important issues, he said. The emphasis, though, should be in making the most of Hays' water resources through a focus on efficiency more than conservation. Efficiency, he said, entails getting the same or similar results while using less water.

"Everybody thinks conservation is doing without," he said. "But conservation along with efficiency ... you can still live like you want."

Mellick pointed out the city always will have responsibility for water, sewer, police, fire protection and streets. Beyond that, economic development and quality of life are other budgetary concerns.

"We want to make it so the people want to live here," he said. "Hays has done, I think, an excellent job of that."

Mellick said his ability to relate to and listen to a cross-section of community members sets him apart as a candidate. Working as a floor covering installer, he said, he has had countless opportunities to get public input on city issues in informal settings.

"I feel like I've got a real pulse on what the common worker feels, how it's affecting their families," he said. "I go in and I'm doing a service and they're talking to me while I'm doing this.

"They're very relaxed in their own home. You bring them to a town hall meeting or something like that and everybody's on pins and needles and worried about what somebody else is saying, and what they're thinking about them."