Ocean City Today

Measure targets errant drilling

Rewritten permit process ensures utility companies are responsible for damage
By Katie Tabeling | Oct 09, 2017
File Photo

(Oct. 6, 2017) A new utility installation approach that is expected to do more to protect the city’s buried infrastructure from errant drilling by contractors was approved Monday night by the Ocean City Council.

The council approved a rewritten permit process as an emergency ordinance on Monday to ensure that utility companies are on the hook financially for trenching that accidentally cut into pipes or cables.

“What we’re trying to do is protect our residents, taxpayers and visitors,” said Council President Lloyd Martin. “Too many times before, we don’t find out about a line being struck after they’re [the contractor] is long gone.”

Public Works Director Hal Adkins and Construction Manager Paul Mauser proposed a final draft of the regulations at the Sept. 26 work session, months after Chesapeake Utilities subcontractor bored through the city’s largest water main in on Philadelphia Avenue near 16th Street. That incident caused roughly $135,000 in damages and labor.

Adkins estimated there are between 5 to 10 infrastructure hits a year caused by directional boring.

The new ordinance requires utility companies to submit a drawing of the scope of the construction work, to obtain a $1 million certificate of liability insurance and agree to a two-year maintenance bond.

The drawings would be required on any project that involves boring and would ensure that the work would not affect the city’s infrastructure. Contractors would be allowed to quickly repair outages and retroactively file a permit within two days.

Representatives from Comcast and Delmarva Power & Light warned city officials earlier that the engineering drawings could delay a project for weeks and increase costs that would be passed to the customers.

The utility agreement also assigns to the contractor the responsibility for costs of any damage to city infrastructure as a result of their actions. Those costs will include repair-related personnel expense and legal fees.

The $100,000 maintenance bond is to ensure the contractors would complete the work. The bond amount could be increased at the Public Works Department’s discretion.

Utility work is required to be done between Oct. 1 and April 30, or as approved otherwise, from 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. No work is to be done on Fridays. The city could also require a traffic control plan to protect drivers and contractors.

The council also unanimously passed a resolution that simplified the permit fee structure. Instead of paying the current $1 per square foot, utility companies will pay $100 per “city block,” which is defined as 300 feet.

“We will review the fee structure come budget time if we find it doesn’t work,” Adkins said.

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