14 February 2007: Broken Pipes & Promises

Broken pipes and broken promises

It has been a busy season for those in the business of thawing pipes, but a bitter one for many Georgetown residents. While the tornado-force winds have caused their customary grief, it is the frozen waterlines that have made this winter one to remember—painfully. Costs to the homeowners to get their water flowing have ranged from the hundreds to the thousands—and it’s only February.

My waterline has frozen stiff, not once but twice, despite two flowing taps. Because of that, I have become a bit of an authority on a “perfect storm” condition that causes pipes to freeze: a non-insulated waterline not buried deep enough under a dirt road that has not been properly maintained, thus has sponged up an excessive amount of melting snow and ice. Another contributing factor is a poorly designed road and drainage.

What I haven’t as yet deciphered is the town’s rationalization that it is the homeowner’s responsibility to control something over which he/she has no control: the stretch of line, oftentimes 20 feet or more, which lies under the town’s road, from the main to the resident’s curb stop. Logically, one would think that the homeowner would be responsible for that portion of the line over which he/she has control—underneath his/her property, from the curb stop to the house—with the town being responsible for delivering water to the property line.

In addition to that non sequitur, it puts an unfair and disproportionate burden on residents who live on dirt roads and are happenstance on the side of the road opposite of the main. To add insult to injury, if the homeowner does something to mitigate the potential for that portion of the line freezing, like increase the water flow, he/she may be penalized with a higher water bill. In Georgetown, up to 7,000 gallons a month costs you $51.44, even if you use far less. But if you go over the 7,000 per monthly gallon allotment to prevent your water line from freezing, you take it in the shorts, regardless of your efforts to conserve water and previous low consumption.

What saw me through my particular crises were two thoughts: I am not alone in this and no one will die from it. For me a frozen waterline is just that: a frozen waterline and, thus, an inconvenience, albeit costly—the first time. After that, when you are doing all you should to keep your line from freezing, it becomes a nuisance. For seniors and others on fixed incomes and in poor health who may lack the resources and stamina to get through the ordeal, lack of flowing water can be most traumatic.

This experience, however, has reminded me to thank others who make life up here possible: emergency responders, snowplow drivers, power company workers, et al. It has reminded me as well to stop for stranded motorists who may need a jump and to be prepared: jumper cables and a shovel among the required ancillary items for winter driving; alternate sources for heat and light for when the power goes out; and good neighbors who allow you to use their “facility” when yours is not of use due to that darn frozen water line.

So a tribute and thanks to Ma Nature for the reminder about what is really important and to good friends and neighbors and to fellow survivors, unafraid to get their hands dirty and wet and cold, thus making it possible for us all to come to terms with Ma Nature’s conditions.

The Promise Breaker: Speaking of dirt under the fingernails, off comes the bumper sticker. Political reality has set in with Governor Ritter, breaking his Colorado Promise and siding with Big Business pouters and whiners by vetoing the bill to make union organizing more democratic, and thus more American. The Guv has eschewed his family roots and democratic values by caving in to pressure from the corporate-owned Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News argument that a 75 percent vote threshold must remain the standard to organize an all-union shop. Imagine if we imposed that same standard on the Colorado legislature, the U.S. Congress, and corporate stockholder votes. So much for the little guy and for being one—the Guv has had a pedicure, bleached his blue collar white, and begun sipping the fat-cat’s $105 chardonnay.

RIP: I cannot contribute more eloquently to the obits that have paid tribute to Molly Ivins, one of my literary heroes who managed to keep a cutting sense of humor while skewering—the commonly used verb in her obits—the rich and powerful. At the end, she enjoined us: “So keep fightin’ for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t you forget to have fun doin’ it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin’ ass and celebratin’ the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.” I shall miss her cutting wit while only hoping to aspire.

Program Note: Ed Quillen of the Denver Post will be my guest on KYGT on Saturday, February 24 @ 3:00

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