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Another day, another missed Minnesota legislative deadline

Turn off the faucet

Brainerd Public Utility (BPU) customers who adhered to a utilities request to continuously run a pencil-thin stream of water this winter to prevent water line freeze-ups may turn the water off on April 30.

BPU Finance Director Todd Wicklund said the water main emergency that was declared in late February has now ended. An unprecedented number of water line freeze-ups resulted in utilities asking customers, particularly those who didn’t use much water or who lived on dead-end streets, to run a small stream of water continuously. Water and sewer bill adjustments will be made to use the customers’ average water use for the months of November through January.

There were no water line freeze-ups reported in Brainerd during the winter of 2012-13. By late February of 2014 there had been 154 freeze-ups reported and Wicklund thought the latest total was close to 200 freeze-ups.

The decision to ask people to keep water running was a financial one. The cost of the city forgiving what would have been higher water bills was much less than the money that could have potentially been spent on fixing water line freeze-ups.

Wicklund said approximate water use (measured at the wastewater treatment plant) in March of 2014 was 62 million gallons compared to 44 million gallons during the same month a year ago. Wicklund estimated Brainerd consumers were running about 600,000 gallons a day more water than normal. The monthly commodity charge for water, he said, was about $2.20 per thousand gallons. Wicklund estimated that forgiving the extra water use cost the city about $$41,000

Repeatedly sending a few workers out to fix a water line freeze-up — sometimes incurring overtime pay or causing streets to be torn up — could easily surpass that $41,000 figure, according to Wicklund. He also noted that a freeze-up could pose public safety risks if it affected the ability of firefighters to use water.

MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at 855-5860 or Follow on Twitter at

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860