Don’t ever expect city hall to admit it was wrong – but it has "adjusted" its position on billing some people affected by frozen pipes for running their water.
The city this morning reversed a policy that required property owners to be responsible for their water bills if they left their taps running 24/7 after their frozen water pipes spontaneously thawed on their own.
"The media coverage made them look bad," said Todd Kerr, the St. James resident who was boiling mad when told he was on the hook for the water bill when his pipes thawed on their own after being frozen for 17 days.
Kerr’s situation was detailed in a Free Press story this morning, and then hours later the city reversed its position.
Kerr said the city’s position made no sense, especially since the city was absorbing the cost of thawing pipes when frozen on private property.
Kerr said he received a phone call this morning from a civic official, who said the additional cost of running the taps would now be covered by the city.
"I could almost feel his red-faced expression when he was talking to me on the phone," Kerr said, adding the official "apologized profusely."
City officials estimate it would cost a homeowner about $500 to leave one cold water tap running at a pencil-width stream for three months -- about $5.40 per day.
"I’m just glad it’s over."
The same city spokeswoman who told the Free Press Monday that Kerr, and others in the same situation, are responsible for the entire water bill if they ran their taps 24/7, now said this morning the city had "adjusted" its position.
The city hadn’t reversed its position, the spokeswoman said. "We are adjusting processes as required to address a dynamic situation."
Kerr said his home and several hundred more in his neighbourhood are now classified as part of the at-risk areas. He, along with his neighbours, received a hand-delivered notice, advising they live in an area where the city water lines might freeze and they should run a cold-water tap 24/7 as a preventative measure, with the city adjusting their water bill accordingly.
Kerr said the city official who called him this morning told him that all properties within a five-street radius of his King Edward Street home were given the same notice this morning.
Kerr said this morning’s admission just made the city’s earlier intransigence on his water bill that much harder to take.
"I told them before that there was no way to prove that the freeze was on my property yet that’s what they insisted," Kerr said. "Now they’re telling me and all my neighbours that it’s most likely the city water line that could freeze.
"I’m just glad it’s over."
Frozen pipe resources
When to let the cold tap trickle...
- You received notice from the city that your property is at risk.
- You are getting your water from a temporary hose line.
- City crews have thawed a pipe for you this winter.
Do not run a tap non-stop if you have not received notice from the city. This will cut the risk of overwhelming the sewer system.
The city has opened two resources centres where people without water can register, take a shower, fill jugs and get information from 311 staff. The Red Cross and Salvation Army have coffee and snacks, cleaning kits, and personal-hygiene kits.
A resource centre opened Saturday at the Cindy Klassen recreation complex, 999 Sargent Ave. It's open Monday to Friday between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday between 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday afternoon the city opened a second centre at the Fort Rouge Leisure Centre, 625 Osborne Street. It's open Monda to -Friday, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
A third centre is planned for an as-of-yet unnamed location in eastern Winnipeg, expected to open by the end of the week.
The city is offering free access to shower facilities at all 12 indoor pool locations as well as the Fort Rouge Leisure Centre (625 Osborne St.).
Fire stations that offer water
You can fill water containers for free at city fire stations between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Please provide your address to the staff. If you do not have any suitable drinking-water containers, one will be provided. If you are not able to do this, contact 311.
The following stations offer fill ups:
Elmwood/East Kildonan: 55 Watt St., 640 Kimberley Ave.
Point Douglas: 65 Ellen St
Fort Rouge: 150 Osborne St. and 799 Lilac St.
Daniel McIntyre: 845 Sargent Ave.
Mynarski: 603 Redwood Ave.
St. James/Brooklands: 1354 Border St., 320 Whytewold Rd.
River Heights/Fort Garry: 1780 Taylor Ave., 1567 Waverley St.
St. Vital: 1057 St Mary's Rd.
St. Boniface: 1083 Autumnwood Dr.
Transcona: 701 Day St.