Weather Forecast


Newport to waive cold-related excess water fees

Excessively cold temperatures this winter have frozen some water and sewer pipes across Minnesota, and south Washington County residents are not immune from the problem.

A Code RED alert was issued last month, recommending citizens run a pencil-thin stream of water to prevent pipes from freezing. Newport homeowners will get a pass on increased water usage fees attributed to their attempts to keep their pipes from freezing.

With a dead end water main frozen solid on Fourth Avenue and a handful of residents having to run excessive amounts of water to thwart frozen lines, Newport Public Works Superintendent Bruce Hanson said this is the worst winter he’s ever seen.

“We physically dug up the ground and there’s 8 to 10 feet of frost out there,” he said last week. “This problem is Midwest-wide. The frost doesn’t typically go out until May 15, so I think it’s only going to get worse before it gets better.”

Despite the 50-foot section of water main frozen on Fourth Avenue, all properties have flowing water for now, Hanson said.

Residents who are running water or plan to run water are asked to inform City Hall in order to receive reimbursement for excess water usage fees.

“We will forgive the extra water if it’s requested,” City Administrator Deb Hill said.

If residents have been running water for a while, the city will compare average monthly bills from the previous year to the current bill to determine an accurate reimbursement amount.

All Newport residents should expect to receive information about the reimbursement option attached to their upcoming water bill.

City Council member Tom Ingemann, who is also the assistant fire chief, told residents to invest in an inexpensive thermometer to monitor the water coming from the faucet. He said if the water is in the “warning zone,” or reading lower than 40 degrees, residents should run their water.

Excess costs incurred to the homeowner’s sewer system will not be reimbursed.

At this time, the city of Cottage Grove is only reimbursing what City Administrator Ryan Schroeder said was a handful of properties specifically asked to run water.

“In those cases we do pay the difference between the water we expect and what is actually used,” he said. “But that’s just a few addresses that we know are an issue.”

Otherwise, he added, the city does not currently have a policy in place that would repay excess water usage and does not plan to in the future.

Schroeder said there has been 17 instances of frozen pipes in Cottage Grove, most of which are private property.

“When a freeze occurs within the street (or) right-of-way, we address that,” he said.

St. Paul Park is not reimbursing residents who run water as a method of prevention.