Winnipeg city officials are now waiving fees for citizens who have had their pipes thawed since Feb. 28, meaning more homeowners won't have to pay their thawing bills.
The city announced Tuesday afternoon that homeowners who have received bills from the city to have their frozen pipes thawed on Feb. 28 or later will receive a notice cancelling the $305 service charge.
Mayor Sam Katz had earlier said crews will thaw pipes free of charge, regardless of whether the frozen pipe is on the city's side or on the property owner's side.
However, he originally said the change would not be retroactive, meaning it would only apply to homeowners whose frozen pipes were thawed on Monday onward.
"The best analogy I can give you is you're doing renovation to your washrooms. You put in new toilets, and two weeks after that we come up with a program either through the city or the province to basically have a subsidy, and people who did it before, they don't get it," he said Tuesday.
"It's not a perfect world we live in and I can understand how some might feel. But you know what? At least they got their water service, and that's the key thing."
The initial announcement added insult to injury for Winnipeggers who had their pipes thawed before Monday, after waiting days or weeks without running water.
Almost 1,000 properties on wait list
As of Tuesday afternoon, 996 properties are waiting for their frozen pipes to be thawed, according to the city's website.
Crews have installed temporary water hoses to 232 of those properties — in many cases, connecting homes with neighbouring homes that do have running water — and 764 do not have any water.
A total of 1,656 properties have reported having frozen water pipes since November, and 660 have had their water services restored.
The city also updated its approximate wait time for pipe-thawing services to 18 days, which is up slightly from the average range of 12 to 17 days that was announced on Monday.
Some city councillors are urging officials to compensate as many affected homeowners as possible for pipe-thawing services.
"I think fairness is fairness. I do think we should waive the $305 retroactively to anybody this winter or since the beginning of the calendar year at least who have had a frozen pipe," said North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty.
"I do think we need to look how much it would cost to retroactively pay it," said Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Paula Havixbeck.
"How many people were in that scenario? Because if you miss it by a day, it's a lot of money."
Close to 5,500 properties are at risk of having frozen pipes, including 482 that were identified late Tuesday.
City officials say staff will try to get in touch with the 482 property owners Tuesday night by phone, while notices will be hand-delivered to them on Wednesday.