Media Archive

Brownville offers no charge thaw services for utilities

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 165, No. 8, February 19, 2003

By Jessica Lee
Staff Writer

New policy says first water or sewer pipe thaw is free

BROWNVILLE The first thaw is free.

Plagued with plunging temperatures and a deep-diving frost, Brownville selectmen last Thursday agreed, after reviewing the town's policy on the thawing of frozen water and sewer pipes, to not charge the first time a resident calls the town when a line freezes.

Town Manager Sophie Wilson said that the water and sewer crews typically respond to a call of a frozen pipe with an investigation as to whether the town is responsible or not. After fault is found, the workers thaw the lines and then, depending on where the freeze took place, either bill the resident or not.

'That's not the most efficient thing to do," she said.

Wilson said that the frost is now reported at four-feet, and that the town instructed homeowners to make sure lines are at least five feet deep. If the frost goes any deeper, she said that many problems are

"They followed our specs, and who is to say who's responsible," when those lines do freeze, Wilson said.

She suggested the town offer relief for first-time thaws, by not charging, and to pick up any cost overage if a resident then has to drip a faucet to prevent a second freeze-up. However, if a line freezes again, the resident is responsible for picking up any tab, depending on where in the line the freeze occurs.

Gary Cook, selectman, added that the depth of the frost this winter is unusual, even for Maine, and that the combination of many residents being out of work, added to the high cost of heating oil, which is rising to $1.80 per gallon, could be devastating.

"We know the economy isn't great, and if the [free thaws] become a strain on the town, and we can't provide the service, we can come back and review it," Wilson said.

She said that the town crews have gone out to thaw about five or six residences. "We haven't seen the bulk of it yet," Wilson said. "Worse case scenario, if we start freezing, there'll be huge chunks of residences possibly half the Junction you'll be looking at."

The town is also looking to buy a new thermostat for the hot water thaw equipment, the town manager said.

Selectmen voted unanimously to enact the new policy.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.