City discontinues ‘Snowbird’ program

Low-cost water turn off option ends for Florence residents

Oct. 21, 2017 — The City of Florence recently ended the low cost option by which residents can turn off the water to their property using what was called the “Snowbird” program.

Florence Public Works Director Mike Miller said that  moving forward, Florence will no longer offer this service to residents.

“The city recently completed a thorough water, wastewater and storm water rate analysis. This work was performed by an outside consultant working with staff and an advisory committee appointed by the mayor and approved by Florence City Council. Much of the analysis performed was to identify any inequities within the rate structure or operating policies,” Miller said.

During the course of its work, the committee received information from city staff about the “Snowbird” program and supported staff’s findings and recommendations to discontinue the program.

City council was briefed in a work session on the report, findings and recommendations, as well as an implementation plan, which included ending the “Snowbird” program, which served a limited number of residents. In addition, the city did not promote the program, but honored it for those that knew about it.

According to findings and recommendations suggested by consultants Gel Oregon and CiviData, “Water and wastewater systems are capital intensive and are built and operated to serve the entire community. Whether those systems are used or not, these systems have significant fixed costs. These costs are allocated to all homes, businesses and other users, to be paid monthly. When these fixed costs are not recovered from some customers, they are passed onto others inequitably.”

Variable costs for water customers include their actual water usage.

“When there is no water consumption, there is no use,” the report said.

The consultants said program utilization was inequitable, and that only those customers who were aware of the “Snowbird” program used it, while other customers with the same use characteristics, but who were unaware of the program, did not get the “Snowbird” rate.

“The administrative and field cost to support this program was passed onto customers that do not receive the benefits of the program,” the consultants concluded.

One of the concerns expressed by residents who utilized the now defunct “Snowbird” program revolved around turning off water pipes during potential seasonal freezing.

Miller suggested a simple way for residents to accomplish this task.

“With respect to turning water off, our customers do have a choice,” he said. “They can choose to have the city turn their water off at the meter, which comes with a cost, or they can choose to turn the water off at their valve. By turning off the water themselves at their own valve, the customer has control — meaning they can turn it back on upon returning from their extended trip or vacation without having to wait for a city worker to come out and turn the water off.”

One reason to turn off water outside the home during extended vacations, especially during the colder months, is to winterize the home plumbing to prevent pipes from freezing, which can cause damage if a pipe bursts or breaks.

“Again, even though the water is turned off, there continues to be base charges for availability of city services,” Miller said.

The fee for having Florence Public Works staff come to a resident’s home and turn off the water to the location is $25, and it can usually be accomplished within 24 hours of a request.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Florence City Hall at 541-997-3436.



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