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Legion facing bankruptcy after water lines freeze

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A North End Legion is facing bankruptcy after its water lines froze for the second time in two weeks.

Staff at the General Sir Sam Steele legion showed up for work this morning and found they had no water.

Worse, city officials told them they’d have to wait two to three weeks to get their water lines thawed.

"There’s no way we can stay in business after closing for 14 days," Mike Perkin, the legion’s secretary, said.

Perkin said the legion, located at the corner of Mountain Avenue and Salter Street, said they were forced to shut down two weeks ago when their water lines froze but were back in business after three days with the help of a neighbour, who allowed the city to connect a hose to her tap.

"We were able to function minimally," Perkin said. "But she doesn’t want to do it again because she didn’t have enough water pressure to flush a toilet or take a shower.

"We need a lot of water, so I really can’t blame her."

Vi Bakrac, the legion president, said the facility will likely be closed a minimum of three weeks.

"We have bills to pay – electricity, gas, security, garbage pick-up," Bakrac said. "They all want to be paid on time but we won’t have any money."

Bakrac and Perkin described the legion operating on a day-to-day basis, needing to take in $1,000 daily simply to break even.

The legion has no reserve funds or business-interruption insurance, they said, and would have to close permanently.

Bakrac said the legion’s water supply has frozen in the past, adding it’s a threat it faces every year.

"We have to keep our taps running every day from February to May but we didn’t get a warning from the city this year," Bakrac said.

Bakrac said she’s frustrated that the city allows the situation to persist year after year, without finding a solution.

"The city should just find out what’s wrong and fix it," Bakrac said. "We can’t keep going on like this."

Perkin said he knows there are private contractors with similar electrical thawing equipment but the city will not authorize the legion to hire them.

"That would cost us a minimum of $400 and more depending on how long it takes," Perkin said. "The legion doesn’t have that kind of money and the city won’t re-imburse our costs. It makes no sense."

The list of properties with frozen water lines continues to grow.

City officials said this afternoon that there are now 677 properties across Winnipeg without water — up from 616 properties Tuesday.

At the beginning of last week, there were just under 300 properties without water service.

Mayor Sam Katz said earlier today the water and waste department has added a fourth electrical thawing machine into service but it’s smaller than the city’s other equipment.

A civic spokeswoman said the newer machine, which arrived Feb. 28, is only being used on shorter, frozen water lines.

A fifth machine has been ordered and will be put into service when it arrives.

The spokeswoman said of those 677 properties with frozen water lines, 77 are now being supplied with a temporary water connection from a neighbouring property.

Individuals reporting no water today said they were told they’d have to wait more than two weeks before thawing equipment can be dispatched to their properties: they have to wait five days for someone from the city to verify the problem is a city water line and another 12 days after that before the equipment arrives.

While several American municipalities have advised their customer to let one tap run 24 hours a day as a preventative measure, civic officials here are reserving that advice only to property owners whose water lines have frozen in the past.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

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