Mayoral candidate Paula Havixbeck vowed Winnipeggers will never have to endure another frozen pipes disaster.
Standing in front of the city's sprawling Waverley shops complex Wednesday morning, Havixbeck detailed a comprehensive plan designed to make Winnipeg a centre of excellence on frozen pipes.
"Right now the city does not have an adequate plan, or any plan, that's proactive, that's going to address how we deal with it should it happen again," Havixbeck said. "In these times of climate change, we will see this sooner than perhaps we think we will."
Havixbeck's plan includes:
- A commitment to thaw frozen pipes within 24 hours or the city will accommodate affected households in hotels.
- Working with the University of Manitoba and manufacturers to ensure access to thawing equipment.
- Cross-training civic staff to ensure appropriate numbers of staff are available.
- Require developers to lay water pipes deeper than now required.
"We need to be a citizen-focused organization," she said. "We need to be more responsive."
Havixbeck's plan is similar to proposals released earlier in the campaign by Robert-Falcon Ouellette, who promised to deploy crisis teams to thaw pipes within 72 hours, purchase several more thawing machines, work with academia and the private sector to develop preventative techniques, and conduct an in-depth review of last winter's situation to determine the cause and evaluate the city's response.
The frozen-pipes disaster caught Winnipeg by surprise last winter. More than 2,700 properties suffered frozen pipes and several thousand more homeowners were instructed to leave a water tap running to prevent more line freezing.
Winnipeg normally experiences about 100 affected properties each year, as the frost penetrates the ground. But city staff were unprepared for what became a daily deluge of frozen water lines.
Worse, city officials were unable to anticipate which neighbourhoods would be affected or explain why some properties had frozen lines but not their neighbours.
The city had only three effective thawing machines and was quick to reject offers from the private sector with equipment that was only sometimes effective.
"As mayor, there will be changes and we will see a plan," Havixbeck said.