Cary plans to examine water service line rules

CARY – A winter that has left a deep frost in the ground and frozen water service lines is leading Cary to examine its policy on fixing those lines.

With the frost line five to six feet into the ground this winter, 10 village water customers have had their water lines frozen, causing people to scramble to figure out how to restore service.

At a recent village committee meeting, Village Administrator Chris Clark reiterated that village code says all repairs to water service lines have to be made and paid for by the owners of the buildings. The village can repair a line in an emergency, but will bill the property owner.

That ordinance was last updated in 1989.

Village staff said they would do a report on the associated issues to see whether Village Board members want to modify the ordinance.

Clark said he didn’t expect any changes to be made before the end of this winter.

Trustee Karen Lukasik recommended the village re-examine the ordinance, calling it vague. She said she didn’t think the village has told Cary residents it wasn’t going to help them, but she didn’t want them feeling like “we’re leaving them high and dry.”

“We should at least readdress it to see if there is something more we can put it into it,” Lukasik said.

Other municipalities, such as Crystal Lake and Lake in the Hills, take responsibility of service lines from the water main to a homeowner’s buffalo box, where the valve is located to turn water service off and on.

“These other communities that have these different policies, some have literally been 24/7 operations, trying to keep these things thawed,” Clark said. “I don’t know if it’s a condition communities didn’t anticipate.”

Under Cary’s ordinances, the buffalo box has to be “between the house and main between the curb line and sidewalk line, so they are easily accessible and protected from frost.”

Cary officials said the village repairs and replaces broken or damaged buffalo boxes.

“We need to get access to that line to turn water on and off for lack of payment or change in ownership,” Clark said.

Clark did say having the village be responsible for the main to the buffalo box could bring about extra costs.

“There’s a lot of public cost and responsibility that comes with that; you may choose to own that piece and be comfortable with that,” he told Village Board members.

If there is a water service line break and the water was leaking, the village would typically fix it as a standard practice, Clark added.

Of the 10 water customers who have had frozen lines, four have run hoses to a neighbor’s house to get water service, and two have had service restored by a plumber.

Two of the customers are little-used businesses and have lines that are still frozen, according to village documents. One location is a vacant townhome, and village officials do not know the status of the last customer, according to village documents.

Because some areas in town had a history of water service lines freezing, Cary officials put notices on people’s doors advising them to let their water trickle from faucets.

It’s been seven or eight years since it’s been cold enough for lines to freeze, said Assistant Public Works Director Mike Walsh.

“When things first began to get cold, we tried to be proactive and contact the people we knew historically have had problems,” he said.

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