Chronicle Editorial

Winter struggles made easier with council's resolution


     The Hampton City Council's decision to grant a water bill credit for residents that run their faucets to avoid frozen pipes was a rare highlight in an otherwise long, gloomy and frigid winter.

     Under the new resolution, city officials will average water bill totals from the months of November, December and January. If a household or business went over that three-month average from mid-February to mid-March, they won't be charged for any added usage on their April 1 bill. Citizens must contact City Hall by 5 p.m. on Monday, March 17, to put their name on a list to be eligible for the special water bill credit. Residents who fail to do so won't receive an adjusted bill. However, those that contact City Hall after the March 17 deadline will be eligible for the credit on their May 1 bill, which will include water usage from mid-March to mid-April.

     The council's decision will no doubt ease the burden placed on some households this winter. An ever-creeping frostline has froze up pipes at more than 30 homes throughout the city during the past month, and that number only promises to rise as frigid temperatures hold steady. As many of us all know, running our faucets to keep water moving is the best way to prevent a freeze-up from rendering a property without water. However, this tactic creates obvious strains on those with fixed incomes and other economic constraints. The city's decision was cognizant of these burdens and took into account a conundrum that's probably shackled more than a few Hampton homes this winter – cut something out of the monthly budget to pay a higher water bill or risk a freeze-up.

     The city council didn't have to agree to the adjustment by any means. Hampton code dictates that residents and businesses are responsible for the pipes running from the city's water main to the building, and any costs associated with thawing a freeze-up are charged solely to the property owner. Many larger cities throughout north central Iowa opted to forgo a resolution establishing relief for residents' water bills during the remainder of winter. Mains and residential pipes in Mason City and Waterloo experienced many breaks and freeze-ups during the past month, but those cities were unable to do anything to help out with mounting costs.

     It seems we're simply fortunate to live in a small community that helps those in need during times of difficulty. People with frozen pipes were able to shower and do laundry at the Church of the Living Word, and the Franklin Wellness Center also opened its doors. Mayor Brook Boehmler even personally contacted those with frozen pipes to make them aware of their options. It's that type of small town support that makes difficult times just a little bit easier. Be it floods, tornadoes or frozen pipes, we're never going to be left high and dry by our neighbors and friends here in Franklin County.

     The council's decision provides welcomed relief, but it also comes with a bit of personal responsibility. Some council members feared that people might take advantage of this opportunity and let their faucets run wide open. Doing so would not only be childish, but also extremely wasteful. Please use the bill credit for its intended purpose – run a pencil's width of water from your faucet to avoid frozen pipes. There’s no guarantee your pipes won’t freeze, but it’s better than doing nothing and waiting for the worst to happen.