Byron Business Owner Accused of Stealing Water to Prevent Freezing Pipes

Posted at: 03/03/2014 5:51 PM
By: Brianna Long

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- It's a story we've been following all winter, people dealing with frozen water pipes. Around 200 households in Rochester have been without water over this frigid winter. And one Byron business owner went to the extreme to keep his pipes thawed, but didn't want to pay for it.

This move by the owner of the bowling alley, Byron Lanes, wasn't just extreme, it was illegal.

"We get tons of calls because everybody wants to know if they should leave their water running," said City Administrator Mary Blair-Hoeft,

According to authorities, the owner of Byron Lanes was worried about his pipes freezing because of the cold weather. So he listened to advice some people are giving, and left his water running overnight. But he didn't want to pay for it, so he disconnected his water meter.

"If one person or one family or one business is deciding not to pay their water bill, or has decided to take their meter off, whether its for a day, or a week or a month, their neighbors are paying," said Blair-Hoeft.

Now, Damon Gowlland is facing misdemeanor charges for theft of services, and he had to pay a thousand dollar fine to the city of Byron.

"We take this very seriously, because we pay for it, I mean all their residents pay for it. Its our duty to protect our resource and protect our residents."

Byron city officials say they've actually been lucky this winter, with no reports of frozen pipes within the city. Whereas in neighboring Rochester, there are nearly 200 people without water because of frozen pipes.

It's recommended to keep your water running at about a pencil width to keep pipes from freezing. In both Byron, and Rochester, you are required to pay for that. But check with your city, because there are some communities reimbursing residents for the extra water usage.