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$70,000 in Public Works costs, 12 breaks so far

They're cold, they're dirty and they're wet, but most importantly they get the job done fast.

Dickinson Public Works employees have faced over 10 water main breaks over the last two months, but not many homes have been left without service as a result.

"We work 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Skip Rapp, the public works manager for water and sewer, said. "The only way we won't come in is if, by chance, we've got an area where we do not have anybody out of service."

The city has fixed 12 breaks so far this year, totaling $70,000 in costs.

Rapp said the goal is to get the breaks fixed as fast as possible no matter when they happen, adding that city employees were called in on Christmas Day to fix a break.

As the weather gets colder, frost moves down through the soil and can cause it to move, Rapp said. This movement can cause the pipes to shear or break.

"Every break that we've had so far is due to ground movement from the frost," Rapp said.

The past few years have been kind to the pipes, with only a few breaks each year, Rapp said, adding that 12 breaks in a year is nothing compared to a winter in the early 80s when there were 57 breaks.

"I think it was '80 or '81 where we had 45 days where it never got above zero," Rapp said. "We actually had, the main itself, frozen down along Oak Street."

The technology for fixing the breaks has improved since then when they used jackhammers to break the frozen ground, Rapp said. They now use a trencher with a frost chain to break the ground, which Rapp said, is a lot easier.

Rapp said there is a chance of some more breaks this spring when the ground thaws and starts to move again.

Despite the fact there has already been $70,000 spent to fix the breaks, Rapp said people have no reason to worry about their rates going up.

"As a utility we don't operate on tax money, it's all paid off of utility rates and user fees," Rapp said, adding it is easy enough to acquire operating money to cover the cost of the repairs.

"It's a lot of money, but if we were talking $700,000, then, yeah, it would be a concern. It's a lot of money, but it's not going to have a negative impact on our rates or our ability to operate and serve our customers."