Spring Grove's city council held an emergency meeting on Feb. 13, passing a measure aimed at heading off potential trouble for both residents and the city.

Public utilities director Paul Morken asked members to encourage homeowners to check the temperature of water at their taps twice a day. If the reading is less than 40 degrees after a one minute run, customers are asked to leave a tap cracked open to prevent freeze-ups.

Pipes from homes to the main are the responsibility of residents to maintain, but city can also rack up large expenses for repairs, which often are needed where that tie-in occurs, Morken said.

"If the temperature is colder than 40 degrees, we want people to run water," he stated. "It only takes a pencil-thin stream to keep pipes from freezing. We have had three freeze-ups already.... There's five feet of frost out there in areas where there's no snow cover, such as streets. This situation is not going to go away just because the weather warms up a few degrees. It can actually get worse when temperatures begin to warm.

Morken asked that customers continue to check the temperature of the cold water tap morning and night and run water if necessary to prevent freeze-ups until the end of March.

Clerk/Treasurer Erin Konkel, Utility Billing Director Lyn Solberg and Morken asked the council to consider writing off most of the additional water and sewer costs to customers, since the cost to the city to dig up just one or two mains can be "substantial."

Solberg estimated that leaving a tap running for a month would boost water usage by about 12,000 gallons. The cost for a residential customer would be $48.99 in additional water, and $49.93 for added sewer charges.

So far, 13 customers are leaving taps on to prevent freeze-ups, Solberg said. If the city absorbed the extra cost for 30 people to leave the water on for two months, the added cost would be $2,967.

Council Member Lorilyn Dehning made a motion to only charge customers who leave taps running for the first 1000 extra gallons of water and sewer until the end of March. It passed, with some stipulations.

Customers will be expected to call, email, or visit city hall to let officials know that they are going to purposely leave a tap running. A water meter reading will be asked for at that time. Billing until the end of March will be based on the customer's average usage plus 1000 gallons.

An extra 1,000 gallons of water and sewer will cost a typical homeowner less than $10.00, Dehning noted.

Council members asked Morken if the sewer plant can handle the extra load of water. He said that it can.

"(But) we would not recommend leaving your water on if you are having sewer trouble," Morken added. In those cases, a homeowner may want to have roots cleared from the line to prevent back-ups.