INDIANAPOLIS — A headache for city officials and an expense for taxpayers could be relieved under a bill that impacts utility relocations during construction projects.
Senate Bill 212 is advancing in the Indiana General Assembly and has local ties. It was written by Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield, and city engineer Mike Fruth has spoken in favor of the legislation in two committees.
Fruth said it can be difficult to get utility lines relocated in time for a construction project. The 2011 construction of the roundabout at Meridian and McKenzie roads, for example, had AT&T cables that were not relocated in the agreed-upon time.
“It can delay the project, increase cost and cause additional problems for landowners in those areas,” Fruth said.
If the bill is signed into law, utility companies would be required to provide up-to-date contact information so city and county officials know who to be in touch with when a utility line needs to be relocated.
The bill would also have a committee study issues this summer surrounding utility relocations. Ultimately, the committee could come up with more regulations and fines for utility companies that do not relocate lines in a timely manner.
Fruth said that during the 2011 construction of the roundabout, telephone cables should have been relocated by May. Construction began in June, and contractors had to work around the issue. Because the contractor bid on the project thinking the utility lines would not be there, the additional time and effort led to a change order that cost the city $6,000.
“I’ve talked to my colleagues, and it gets into many thousands of dollars, and sometimes it can cause delays of two or three months,” he said.
Fruth said his department struggled finding the right person to talk to when the utility problem arose.
“The larger the company, the more difficult the task to find the right person,” he said.
Gard said she got involved in the issue when the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns contacted her. She said she’s heard little negative feedback.
“Of course, utilities get nervous, but I think they recognize it’s an issue,” she said.
The bill has passed out of the Senate, 50-0. This week, it was approved 13-0 in the House Roads and Transportation Committee.
Next, it heads to the full House for consideration.
While the immediate impact will be creating the database of contact information, a more long-term impact could come out of the summer study committee.
Gard said the Indiana Department of Transportation has rules that govern utility relocations on state projects. The committee will consider adapting those standards for county and city projects.
Ultimately, fines may be assessed for companies that do not relocate utilities in the agreed-upon time.
Rep. Bob Cherry, R-Greenfield, is sponsoring the bill in the House.
“The bill now requires the INDOT database to include a contact not only for state projects, but for local projects as well,” Cherry said in a press release. “We’ve also requested the Regulatory Flexibility Committee conduct hearings on this topic during the interim.”