City changes ‘let-run’ policy

HANCOCK — The City Council voted Tuesday to reduce the requirements of qualifying for the city’s let-run policy.

The let-run policy allows people to use up to 11,000 extra gallons of water per month to keep pipes from freezing under certain conditions.

The previous policy required evidence of frozen pipes in the last three years before a household could qualify for the program.

Mayor John Haeussler said after the policy took effect last week, many citizens contacted the city to say they hadn’t had any pipes freeze since 2015, which disqualified them, but that they were concerned about pipes freezing this year and wanted to participate in the program.

“Rather than make them freeze again before they can get back on the let-run list, the thought was let’s relax that and let people who need to run water, run water,” Haeussler said.

The policy remains substantially unchanged, except that the provisions requiring proof of frozen pipes within the last three years have been removed. Participants still need to sign the acceptance form with city hall. The program allows participants to run up to 11,000 gallons per month through their faucets at no cost.

Instead, they are charged the average of the 12 months preceding the let-run policy. Any usage above their average plus the 11,000 would be charged to the customer at wholesale water rates.

City manager Barry Givens told the board 39 people are currently on the list, but with the changes to the policy, Haeussler expects the list to expand rapidly. The policy costs the city a maximum of $40.15 per household, per month at current water wholesale rates. Givens said the policy is usually in effect for about two months.

However, wholesale water rates are expected to raise by 30 percent later this year, which led councilors to voice concerns about the rising cost of the policy.

“I think this policy is a great short-term solution,” council member Will Lytle said, but he proposed investigating incentives to encourage homeowners to seek long-term solutions to freezing pipes.

One idea was to distribute the cost of the water used during a let-run period over the rest of the year, so the water was still paid for by the homeowner, but then waive that cost if the owners worked through programs that could help them mitigate pipe freezing problems more permanently. Another idea was to limit the number of years a homeowner is allowed to participate.

The vote was unanimously in favor of the policy change among the councilors at the meeting.

Daniel Seguin and Ron Blau were absent.