Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Frozen water lines cost property owners

42 Hailey water lines froze in January


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Trickling water through the sink during a cold snap is a tried and true method for avoiding frozen water pipes, and potentially costly repairs. Yet some homeowners don’t take that step, and find themselves cut off from the city water supply by morning.

The cost of thawing frozen pipes between city water mains and houses in Hailey may soon be the responsibility of property owners rather than city work crews. The Hailey City Council discussed an ordinance change Monday that would relieve the city of the responsibility.

Councilman Pat Cooley, who works for the Ketchum Water Department, proposed the ordinance change after conversations with Hailey city staff. He said the change would “substantially reduce” the city’s liabilities and reduce costs. 

The city of Ketchum holds private property owners responsible for frozen lines. Bellevue holds them responsible only for frozen sections on private service line sections.

Cooley said property owners are the only ones who can circulate water to reduce the risk of freezing pipes, and therefore the cost of thawing them should not be charged to the city. 

“How can the city take responsibility for something it has no control over?” Cooley said at a city council meeting Monday.

A deep freeze this winter led to 42 cases of frozen water lines in Hailey. City work crews responded to all those instances, which cost the city $5,500. 

Only 18 of the frozen line sections were on city property. The rest were on service lines between meter vaults and homes. 

Under the proposed ordinance change, property owners would have been liable for all 42 incidents. Cooley said that if the ordinance change goes into effect, city work crews will still need to interact with homeowners to oversee work on pipes that intersect with city infrastructure.  

He said that to avoid frozen pipes, residents should trickle water in a stream the size of pencil. 

Perhaps some residents do not trickle water because it could lead to higher water and sewer bills. The city charges about 25 cents for 1,000 gallons of water. Public Works Director Tom Hellen addressed that issue, saying the city could place a cap on water and sewer fees in winter.

Hellen said frozen water lines can result from the lines being dug at insufficient depths, or under areas with no insulating snow cover, such as driveways.

In other Hailey News: 

 - The City Council voted unanimously to amend an annexation agreement with Old Cutters, Inc. to return oversight of codes, covenants and restrictions to the developer and property owners in Old Cutters subdivision. The change was made at the request of Old Cutters President John Campbell. City Attorney Ned Williamson said Old Cutters was the only subdivision in the city with city oversight of its CC&Rs.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com

 




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