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Costly drip: Water credits suspended for New London, Spicer and Green Lake

NEW LONDON –– Since February, many homeowners and businesses in the New London and Spicer area kept a slow, steady drip of water running for weeks on end in order to prevent pipes from freezing up during an extra harsh winter.

Those drips added up to several million gallons of water that went down the drain.

Because of a decision early on by the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District not to charge customers for that extra water and sewer use, the district could see an estimated loss in revenue of about $30,000 for the three-month period.

Customers were charged only on their “average” use since February, when municipal pipes and individual service lines began freezing up in frigid conditions that brought the frost line 7 to 8 feet deep.

That credit came to an end Wednesday.

The cities of New London and Spicer, along with the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District, announced Wednesday that customers can stop running a stream of water and that accounts will only be credited through the month of April.

Although there are still two businesses in New London that do not have running water yet because of frozen pipes — and there are a handful of homes in New London and Spicer in the same predicament — most lines are now clear and the decision was made to stop recommending running water and stop issuing the credits.

“We just don’t think there’s any chance of any new freeze-ups,” said New London City Administrator Trudie Guptill.

“It’s been a weird year,” she said.

The Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District is owned and operated by Kandiyohi County and serves the cities of Spicer, New London, Kandiyohi and customers on several lakes in the northern part of the county.

In his 14 years as director of the sewer and water district, Ron Hagemeier said this is the first time he has seen such widespread issues with freezing water lines.

“It was so brutally cold,” he said. “It caused us a lot of grief.”

It was also the first time customers were asked to run a steady stream of tap water.

Although not everyone did run water through their lines, in order to make it fair, Hagemeier said every customer in New London, Spicer and Green Lake was charged for their average use for February-April. Some credits were also forwarded to customers on Diamond Lake and the city of Kandiyohi as well, he said.

“We wanted to keep things fair in the world,” said Hagemeier. “We’re not receiving revenue because we’re not charging for the water,” he said.

Based on estimates provided by the city of Spicer and figures from New London and Green Lake customers that Guptill is in charge of calculating, Guptil said the total lost revenue to the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District will easily reach $30,000.

She said it was a “nice gesture” for the district to absorb the costs.

If that had not been done, she said New London would have paid an additional $7,000 in March alone “for pumping clean water” that was used to keep water lines open.

While the benefits of the average use charge will be spread to everyone in the district, making up for that loss revenue will also be shared by everyone, said Hagemeier.

Along with the district-wide costs, Spicer City Administrator Leslie Valiant said Spicer spent city funds to pay overtime to city maintenance crews and to hire a company to thaw out municipal lines.

“It was a real problem for the city,” said Valiant. “It was very costly for everybody.”

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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