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Water plant is focus





A multi-million dollar project to update the city's wastewater treatment facility will be the sole topic during the Hays City Commission's work session at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in city hall.

The meeting was delayed to allow commissioners to participate in the Core2Campus event in downtown Hays.

Federal and state regulations require the city's plant reach new standards by 2018, said Paul Briseno, Hays assistant city manager. No plan or costs are available, but the undertaking could cost approximately $28 million.

Built in the 1950s, the aging plant's limited ability to adapt to new codes has forced the issue. The federal and state government will mandate lower levels of nitrates and phosphates in effluent discharge.

The Environmental Protection Agency levied an $18,000 fine on the city in April after experiments to lower the plant's discharge levels went awry and led to excessive ammonia.

"We've pretty much taken the current existing plant to its most efficient possible process," Briseno said.

The plan could include updating the existing facility and building new structure. One to two facilities at Frank Stramel Softball Complex might be eliminated if the space is needed.

The city's pay-as-you-go policy will not extend to financing the new plant because the cash approach is used for general operations stemming from the general fund. A bond likely will be used.

Wastewater rates are expected to increase, but Briseno declined to provide more details. Engineers will work during the next six months to finalize the cost, and those figures will determine the fee increase.