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Council agrees to reimburse property owners for thawing waterlines

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There was no opposition on the floor of city council today to reimburse property owners for pipe thawing costs back to Dec. 1.

The move came just ahead of the latest update on frozen waterlines, which revealed there have been more than 2,200 properties affected with frozen waterlines.

City hall says that 23 properties reported frozen waterlines between Tuesday and Wednesday, bringing the total since November to 2,217 properties.

Another nine properties have been added to the waiting list to have their lines thawed, bringing the total to 1,358.

The city was able to restore full water service to an additional 14 properties between Tuesday and Wednesday.

Earlier, all councillors supported a last-minute proposal from executive policy committee to reimburse property owners the $305 fee charged by the city for thawing frozen lines on private property, back to Dec. 1.

The motion included reimbursing property owners who hired private contractors to do the work but capped the payment at the same $305.

This morning’s move came following mounting pressure on councillors after water and waste decided in early March to stop billing for thawing on private property effective Feb. 28 — too much time was spent determining where the freeze was located, time that was determined should be spend either thawing the lines or hooking up temporary service.

This winter’s constant frigid temperatures are being blamed for the unprecedented number of properties with frozen waterlines, where the frost penetrated down to almost eight feet underground.

Similar situations have been reported in most cold-weather cities across Canada and the U.S.

There was overwhelming support on council to instruct administration to prepare an application to the province for financial aid because of frozen pipes.

Mayor Sam Katz estimated the city’s total cost for the issue could range between $3 million to $5 million, adding the city should take advantage of any financial assistance that is available.

Only councillors Justin Swandel and Scott Fielding opposed seeking financial assistance, explaining it was too premature until the city’s final expenses were tallied.

Councillors were unable to agree on a proposal by Paula Havixbeck to cover the hotel expenses of families or individuals who could not stay in their homes without water.

The debate on the issue was cut short when Coun. Dan Vandal referred the issue to administration for a report.

The city also expanded the number of properties at risk to freezing.

Another 936 property owners are being contacted this afternoon, told to run a cold water tap 24 hours daily to avoid the potential of having their water lines freeze.

The city did not identify which area of the city where the additional 936 properties are located.

The city says there now 7,248 properties across Winnipeg — mostly concentrated in River Heights, Fort Rouge and parts of the North End — where water lines could freeze.

Another 1,500 properties — 859 where water service has been restored, and 677 with temporary water service — are also running their taps 24/7 as a precautionary move.


Updated on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 2:48 PM CDT: run-water warning added

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