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Newport offers flat refund for cold-related water use

Despite recent warmer temperatures, water and sewer lines in south Washington County continue to freeze.

As some Newport residents run roughly 360 gallons of water per day as a prevention method, the city is reimbursing homeowners for some of the extra water usage fees.

To make the process as uniform as possible residents running excess water can expect to be reimbursed 60 cents per day.

Homeowners who inform the city that they are running the recommended pencil-thin stream are allowed to be reimbursed. City Administrator Deb Hill said 53 people have signed up to be repaid.

The standard reimbursement amount, Hill told the Newport City Council last week, is financially a “very clean” way of addressing the added water usage.

This winter, Newport Public Works Superintendent Bruce Hanson said, is the worst he has seen in a while. Earlier this month, Public Works crews dealt with a frozen dead end water main on Fourth Avenue and a handful of other frozen residential lines.

Even with temperatures in the 40s several days this month, Hanson said it’s not over yet and recommended residents continue to run their water to prevent frozen pipes.

St. Paul Park to hold workshop

With some surrounding communities reimbursing residents for cold-related excess water usage, neighboring St. Paul Park might follow suit.

During a recent City Council meeting, St. Paul Park resident Doug Pierro said he was one of nearly 100 residents running the recommended pencil-thin stream of water and estimated a monthly water bill between $600 and $800, several hundred dollars higher than normal.

Since the city’s Code RED alert was issued earlier this year, Pierro said he has spent more than $1,250 to thaw his lines.

St. Paul Park Mayor Keith Franke said the City Council will hold a workshop, possibly at its first meeting in April, to discuss how to address the issue.

Franke said the city’s Public Works Department is gathering water readings from residential properties.

City Administrator Kevin Walsh said nearly 80 St. Paul Park residents have reported frozen water and sewer lines this season.

The city of Cottage Grove, which reported around 17 frozen pipes, does not currently offer a reimbursement program.