Nov. 10--The Hays City Commission on Thursday gave unanimous support to a proposal that could add commercial jet service between Hays Regional Airport and O'Hare Airport in Chicago.
The city's current air service provider, SkyWest/United, has submitted a proposal to the federal Department of Transportation's Essential Air Service program to provide service in Salina. That proposal includes up-line scheduling that would offer a continuous flight between Hays, Salina and Chicago.
Commissioners expressed hope the proposal will be approved, noting Hays residents long have been asking for an eastbound flight. Hays Regional Airport provides service to Denver only.
"This is a great step forward," Commissioner Henry Schwaller IV said. "A lot of people say 'Let's fly to Kansas City.' Let's go to an airport that actually takes you anywhere you want to go. I'm excited that Kansas City is getting a new airport. We're going to have a flight to Chicago. That's even better."
The city would maintain its two daily weekday flights to and from Denver with a similar schedule, City Manager Toby Dougherty said.
The plan submitted by SkyWest/United suggests the flight from Chicago would arrive in Salina at 1 p.m. and Hays at 2 p.m. before continuing to Denver. A Chicago-bound flight would leave Denver at 2:30 p.m., stop in Hays and Salina and end at O'Hare at 8 p.m.
"SkyWest has asked for community input and if the community were supportive to write letters of support," Dougherty said, noting letters also have been requested from the Ellis County Commission, Hays Medical Center and Fort Hays State University. "Any letters we get we will add to the packet to send to the Department of Transportation."
If approved, the change would be effective April 18. The Essential Air Service program, which subsidizes rural air service, is expected to announce its awarded contracts by January.
In other business, the commission approved the purchase of two tracts of land within the city's Smoky Hill wellfield near Schoenchen.
A 36.9-acre tract of land was purchased from the Dinges Family Trust in the amount of $225,000. One production well is on that property, but the extra land is beneficial in case the city ever would need to relocate its wells for maximum supply, City Attorney John Bird said. The land also is expected to be handled by the city's farm manager, meaning it could produce agriculture income.
The other land purchase was for 3.7 acres in the same area owned by Brandon and Brandi Zimmerman. The purchase amount was $80,000. All costs will come from the city's water sales tax fund.
The city has been working since 2003 to acquire land housing city wells in order to secure the wellfield's future and eliminate monthly lease payments. These two tracts are the only remaining properties the city had been hoping to purchase, Bird said.
The city also approved a contract for Jeremy Coulter to serve as the new pro-shop manager at Fort Hays Municipal Golf Course.
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