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More properties exempted from water charges

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Another 800 properties will be exempt from increased water charges for running their taps this winter.

The properties were identified by city staff as those that are traditionally at risk of having frozen water lines and have been running a cold water tap during the winter months for several years.

Frozen figures

Number of properties reporting frozen waterlines since November -- 2,484, an increase of 19 from Monday-Wednesday.*

Number of properties where full water service has been restored -- 1,211, an increase of 35 from Monday-Wednesday.*

Number of properties on the waiting list for thawing services -- 1,273, a decrease of 16 between Monday-Wednesday.*

Number of properties without full or temporary water service -- 476.**

*A computer problem prevented the city from releasing updates Tuesday

**Under-reported due to error, city said

"We've always had frozen pipes every winter," Mayor Sam Katz said Wednesday when asked to explain the latest fee exemption associated with the unprecedented number of frozen waterlines.

"We wanted to make sure (the others) would be covered as well," Katz said.

The city said it would only waive increased water charges for those properties that were formally notified to run their taps -- about 9,200 properties. However, those other 800 properties had been running a tap because that's what they do every winter.

The proposal was approved at executive policy committee, with only Coun. Justin Swandel voting against the measure. It must be approved by council before it becomes city policy.

Katz admitted city staff were caught flatfooted by the unprecedented number of frozen waterlines, but added that was no different than the city's initial response to the 1997 flood.

Katz said of the more than 2,400 properties that have reported frozen waterlines since November, there are now about 400 where the lines are still frozen and residents are not receiving water via a temporary hose connection.

"As well as being very traumatic for many people, it's been a phenomenal learning experience," Katz said. "I'm quite confident (if it happens again), we will be much better prepared."

Katz said the city still doesn't have any figures on what the situation has cost the city to date, adding he doesn't anticipate a number until property owners can stop running a cold-water tap as a precautionary move.

Meanwhile, a computer software problem is being blamed for the city's inability to provide updated numbers on its web page Tuesday.

"Data could not be retrieved due to an access issue with the database software being used to capture this information," a civic spokeswoman said.

The city has been tracking the frozen pipes situation on a daily basis, posting changes in the number of properties reporting frozen waterlines, those that have been thawed or receiving temporary service, and those properties still on the waiting list.

While that problem was overcome Wednesday, city officials admitted a reporting error in the number of properties without either full or temporary water service.

The city reported Monday there were 407 properties without any water services of any kind, but revised that number to 476 Wednesday afternoon.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 17, 2014 B1

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