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Frozen pipe credit, roads, on Winona Council agenda (03/03/2014)
By Chris Rogers
What streets will the city repair next year? Should the city add stop signs at uncontrolled intersections in neighborhoods? On Monday, the Winona City Council will discuss that and a proposal for improving cross-city traffic flow by removing traffic controls in some places, and adding controls in others, according Public Works Director Keith Nelson. Nelson said he will also propose a list of which streets the city should repair in its $1.7 million street overhaul effort this year.

The council will discuss Nelson’s proposals at 5:30 p.m. on Monday in the Wenonah Room on the third floor of city hall prior to its regular meeting at 6:30 p.m.

Water credit to prevent frozen pipes?

In its regular meeting, the City Council will consider giving a water bill credit to homeowners and renters who have run their faucets to prevent their service lines from freezing. At its last meeting, the council granted a $140 credit for homeowners who could prove that their pipes had actually frozen and that their water usage had increased. On Monday, the council may vote on whether to offer similar credits to homeowners whose pipes have not frozen.

City staff have proffered two options for such credits. The first would offer homeowners without frozen pipes a flat rate $50 credit. The second would offer such homeowners the same credit as homeowners with frozen pipes: up to $140. Staff also offered the option of not offering any credits for homeowners without frozen pipes.

Like the current credit for homeowners with frozen pipes, both of the proposed credit options would only apply to the cost of increased water usage over what homeowners used for the same month last year, according to the proposal. City staff said they will check utility records to verify that homeowners are, in fact, using more water than last year before granting the credit. Only homeowners and renters whose service lines — the lines beneath the ground connecting a house to the utility mains — have frozen, not pipes within their home, are eligible.

City staff estimate that there are 600 homes and businesses where water is run to prevent freezing. If that many residents seek the proposed credits, the $50 credit option would cost the city $30,000 in lost revenues and the $140 credit option would cost the city $84,000 in lost revenue.

This year’s long cold winter has frozen the ground beneath city streets to remarkable depths, as deep as city water mains in places. The six-inch-thick mains are not prone to freezing, though Water Department Supervisor Bob Dunn was surprised that shifting frost has cracked three already this year. The thin pipes that connect homes and businesses to water and sewer mains are prone to freezing, if frost levels reach them. As of last week, city staff said that they had received reports of 147 frozen water services and eight frozen sewer services. Staff project that the true number is far larger.

For homeowners whose tap water temperature has fallen below 38 degrees, or who notice a loss of water pressure or flakes of rust in their water, city staff recommend running a faucet at a rate of a quart per minute, or a gallon every four minutes. Use a stopwatch and a quart jar or milk jug, they suggest. At that rate, the extra water and sewer costs are estimated to be $70 per month.

If your service line freezes, call a licensed plumber or welder for assistance. You can apply for the existing city credit at 507-457-8272.

City sale for Midtown Foods liquor store

The council will also consider selling part of the city parking lot adjacent to city hall to Midtown Foods for use as a liquor store. The proposed 3,000-square-foot liquor store would be an expansion to the northwest corner of the current grocery store. A proposed map indicates the expansion would affect 24 parking spots.

Under the proposal, the council would transfer the property to its subgroup, the city of Winona Port Authority, who would in turn sell the property to Midtown Foods. Port Authority officials who backed the transfer noted “the importance of a full service grocery store in proximity to downtown.”



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