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The Water Is Back On, But Who Pays the Bill?

Posted: Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Carleen Wild

Enterprise staff

It was not an item on last week’s City Council agenda, but it quickly became one of the most lengthy discussions that night.

How would the Council prefer to handle an outstanding bill between Drainman, Inc and ALCO? A roughly $19,000 bill for trying to clear frozen water lines over the course of this past record setting frigid winter.

ALCO was under the assumption the bill was being taken care of by the City of Flandreau. The City of Flandreau assumed ALCO, once informed of the matter and in talks with Drainman, Inc directly, would take care of the bill.

Flandreau, and quite honestly, the entire country saw a mess of frozen pipes and the subsequent issues that followed earlier this year, in one of the most brutal winters on record. Pipes throughout the region were frozen.

Locally, some of the responsibility to clear the pipes clearly fell upon on the City of Flandreau. But as is standard with most city ordinances, once the pipes fall on personal property, the expense becomes the responsibility of the owner of the property.

Most who had issues aren’t disputing the fees. Money may not have been budgeted for such an unexpected fiasco. But most homeowners and business owners have understood the issue and are working to cover the expense, most likely praying we never see another winter like the one we just had.

In the case of the City of Flandreau and one of its more popular businesses in town, ALCO, there seem to be some questions about who will pay the bill. And why the bill got to the point where it is without anyone seeming to know anything about it.

$19,000 plus in hours, manpower and equipment was apparently needed to restore service to ALCO’s waterline earlier this spring. The pipes froze near the beginning of February. Service was completely restored around March 25th according to Don Whitman, Administrator for the City of Flandreau.

Whitman says ALCO contacted the city as soon as problems arose. He suggested a contractor to help resolve the issue after deeming the freeze happened outside of the city’s main lines. Drainman, Inc was approved for the job by ALCO’s corporate offices and began working on thawing out the pipes February 24th.

At this point, the two sides are talking about how to resolve the issue and Whitman is confident things will be handled well and soon resolved. He says the City is not interested in being embroiled in litigation over the matter.

“This was an unusually cold winter, with an incredibly unusual level of frost in the ground. The impact upon homes and businesses in Flandreau varied from neighborhoods, blocks and even neighbors. No other business or residence required such a sizeable undertaking as that required to restore water to the ALCO store,” said Whitman.

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