Winnipeg might be ready for a new moniker — Disaster City.
Mayor Sam Katz confirmed that city officials have considered elevating the frozen-waterlines situation from an emergency to disaster status.
The move would make the city eligible for financial assistance from Ottawa and the province.
"This winter has been extremely unique," Katz said, adding Winnipeg has sought disaster financial assistance during recent flooding situations.
Katz said to qualify to for assistance, the city has to spend about $750,000 and then subsequent costs would be allocated between the three levels of government.
Councillors were told that reimbursing property owners for the $305 fee for thawing water pipes on private property would cost about $210,000.
The city has been has been accruing costs on several front to deal with frozen waterlines:
- Crews from water and waste have been working around the clock thawing frozen waterlines;
- Staff have been brought in from other departments to assist with temporary hose connections, which are being done 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
- About 40 firefighters, normally assigned to regulation enforcement, were brought in on a weekend to distribute notices to property owners in at-risk areas to leave a cold water tap running;
- The city is absorbing the cost associated with 7,770 properties running a cold water tap 24/7, at an estimated rate of $5.40 a day per property.
The city has advised the affected property owners that they could be susceptible to frozen lines until late May or early June. They could be running their cold water taps until that time.
Coun. Paula Havixbeck estimates the city will lose $3 million in revenue from taps left running by affected property owners to the end of March.
"The numbers are getting up there," Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo) said, adding she’d support seeking disaster financial assistance.
Katz said the other levels of government might argue the city is responsible for the frozen pipes, but added the move is worth considering if the costs escalate high enough.
A provincial government spokesman said that much of Winnipeg’s cost to date on frozen pipes does not fit the eligibility criteria set by Ottawa for financial assistance.
However, the provincial spokesman added that the federal government would likely entertain discussions on the issue, adding it has the final decision on determining what are eligible expenses.