New water line freeze-up policy in Oak Park Heights

A new policy in Oak Park Heights means the city will adjust the water bills of homeowners who run their water to keep their lines from freezing.
City officials are aware of approximately 25 homes that have experienced a waterline freeze between the water main and the home. The VFW building also had a significant freeze.
The freezes are the result of a deep frost and cold temperatures and are affecting many cities.
In the wake of the problems, Oak Park Heights official are asking residents to monitor their water temperature. If it is below 40 degrees, the city advises residents to run a continuous stream of water about the width of a pencil to help prevent freeze-ups. Another sign that pipes may be freezing is water that is running at a lower volume than normal.
If residents let the city know they are running water as a precaution, they will have their water bills adjusted under a policy adopted by the city council Feb. 25. To report that they are running water as a precaution, residents should call city hall at 651-439-4439.
Bayport made similar announcement last week.
The Oak Park Heights council unanimously approved the policy. Councilmember Mike Liljegren was absent.
As initially proposed, the policy simply stated that the council would “consider” adjustments to water and sewer billings for home that run water to prevent freeze-ups. At the request of Councilmember Chuck Dougherty, the council agreed to specify that the council will make adjustments to water bills. City staff must come up with a formula for how those reductions are made.
Councilmember Mark Swenson said it’s a “good insurance policy” to encourage homeowners to monitor their water temperatures and run water if necessary because the cost of adjusting water bills would be far less than the cost of fixing a burst water main or similar problem.
Swenson, who is also the Bayport fire chief, also said he seen fires result when a welder hooks up to unfreeze a pipe without appropriate knowledge or experience. To protect against that, he asked if the city could coordinate a response for homeowners and use trusted contractors.
City Administrator Eric Johnson said the city doesn’t have the resources to actually coordinate the response, but he said the city will serve as a first point of contact for residents in the event of a freeze-up. He says the city will help where it can. For example, it can help find the curb stop — the valve that allows water to flow from the main line to the home — and it can provide contact information of trusted contractors.
“(Council members) want us to help where we can, which we’ve done,” Johnson said. “We just don’t have an ability to act as an agent for the homeowner. These are private lines. … Call us as a first point of contact, and we’ll go from there.”
At its Feb. 25 meeting, the council also:
• Considered temporarily opening 57th Street at the entrance of city hall to two-way traffic as temporary relief during road construction on and around Highway 36 this summer. The council decided to wait and monitor the situation.

Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]