Claremore Daily Progress

March 17, 2013

Utility permit measure may avert legal action

Salesha Wilken
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE — The Rogers County Board of County Commissioners will finalize a measure 9 a.m Monday that will require utility permits for utility line work done throughout the county.

The permits will save the county potentially thousands in legal action, according to the commissioners.
The issue was first presented last week during the weekly BOCC meeting.
The Planning Commission will oversee the permits under the direction of Director Larry Curtis.
“Many counties file utility permits excluding ours,” Curtis said. 
“I believe with all the work that goes on in Rogers County it is very important to have the fees in place to insure the utility lines are placed in the correct location,” Curtis said.
It becomes a liability if the work is not done in the right location or if utility workers tear up the roads, he added.
“The only concern is for the utility rate payers. If the fees get to high it will be kicked back to the customer,” commissioner Dan DeLozier said. 
“They [utility companies] might take more care and diligence when doing the work,” commissioner Kirt Thacker said.
The goal is to prevent misplacement of utility lines, decreasing the potential for hit or damage lines.
“Mr. Iski [Assistant District Attorney David Iski], the county spends between $250 to $375 an hour for legal counsel every time there is a tort claim,” Helm said.
The county is dealing with a $10,000 bill every time an issue arises, he added. 
“It is very serious to us,” Helm said.
Helm explained that one of his road hands almost hit a high-pressure gas line while working.
“It would have cooked my guy and created a 100 foot crater,” Helm said.
The line was not buried at the correct depth, he added.
“It is a costly adventure when it [utility lines] are not buried,” Iski said
Curtis has contacted the utility companies that work in the county.
“A number of the rural water districts voiced concerns about the cash bond,” Curtis said.
Curtis said his department would have some discretion.
Bonds may be carried over from one project to another on a case-by-case basis, making the permits more affordable, he added. 
The permit will require the utility company to have an inspector on site at all times while work was underway.
Additionally, companies will be required to provide engineering documentation of the project. 
The fees will include $200 for administration, $200 for each road crossing; parallel installation will be 15 cent  per foot of occupied right-of-way and a cash bond of $500 to $1000. 
Installations that are completed without a permit shall incur a fee of $2,500.
Companies that plan to perform underground boring, pushing, overhead crossing and other methods of utility work dealing with county easements and right-of-way, should apply for a permit.
The fees collected from the permits will be used for administration of the policy including the addition of a Rogers County Utility Inspector.