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City eyes upgrades for 13th Street near downtown





A four-block stretch of 13th Street could undergo significant infrastructure and aesthetic upgrades if the Hays City Commission pursues all its options for reconstructing the street.

Commissioners met Thursday for a work session to discuss work on the downtown corridor. It was ranked sixth on the 2011 pavement condition assessment for streets needing repair. The $1.5 million base plan would fix driving lanes and intersections, and there is an alternative plan to replace all curbs, parking and sidewalks for an additional $204,000.

City staff also recommended improving the stormwater system, water services and water meters for a combined $341,886. There would be a 5-foot-wide bicycle lane on both sides of the street.

Commissioners were presented with potential aesthetic changes totaling $505,980.

Inlaid brick pavement from Main to Oak is possible for $150,480, brick crosswalks at all intersections could be added for $13,500, and there could be four low-water landscape planters for $21,600.

Installing another Chestnut Street District monument was estimated to cost $10,200. Upgrading the traffic signal at 13th and Main to a "smart" decorative version with a pedestrian push button was priced at $168,000. Adding decorative streetlights from Main to Oak to match others in the downtown area and installing new steel poles from Oak to Milner would cost $142,200.

A public opinion survey of affected residents found some support for the measures, but others criticized the plans.

"No improvements. Nothing wrong with 13th Street. No bike lanes," stated one comment.

Mayor Henry Schwaller IV said he agreed with the base plan and pavement replacement option because it would look strange to have the road in different conditions. Additional upgrades are not justified, he said.

"As far as the other stuff, in a perfect world, had we had a roaring economy and sales tax collections were zooming, yeah I'd like to put in some lights and maybe a planter," Schwaller said. "We cannot afford it."

A poll of the commissioners suggested they also supported the base plan and pavement replacement approach.

Commissioner Kent Steward said adding some visual appeal is worth considering.

"I personally would really hate to see us make this kind of investment, something that's going to be there for 50 years, and not do some nice aesthetic touches," Steward said.

Megan Colson, executive director for Downtown Hays Development Corp., said 13th is the "gateway" to downtown. Groups in the future could raise funds for some of the proposed improvements.

"I think we have room for a lot of improvement, and 50 years from now there's going to be new businesses down there, and we're going to continue to thrive as the core of our community," Colson said.

In other business:

* The meeting was crowded with supporters for the proposed addition to Aubel-Bickle Skate Park. The Western Kansas Skate Park Committee, represented by Jordan Rome and Derek Hadley, has requested permission to raise funds to expand the park with a bowl and new obstacles. The project is estimated to cost $250,000, and the group would deposit the money with the city.

Three parents addressed commissioners and said improving the park would be a draw for action-sports enthusiasts throughout the region.

* City staff recommended paying Wachs Water Services up to approximately $44,000 to identify water loss in the potable water distribution and raw water collection systems. It would be the first leak survey for the city. During its own examination, the city of Salina found 180,000 gallons per day leaking from its lines.

* Waterline improvements also were considered. Stripe and Seal of Hays submitted a $233,458 bid to replace water mains underneath Hickory and Ash. APAC-Kansas Inc. was not the lowest bidder for the proposed project under Elm, but it can complete it during the summer break timeline city staff prefers. It would charge $164,773.