Bill Wallace: Raise pressure, add fines
Steamboat Springs — A few days ago, Steamboat Springs lost much of its Internet and telephone service again. Like the last time this happened, a construction contractor doing excavation work carelessly cut the fiber-optic cable that provides our telecommunication services. The response so far is, “Oops.”
I’ve been in this business for more than 40 years, retiring as a senior vice president for a top-10 engineering-construction company. In construction projects, locating and avoiding underground utilities is standard operating procedure in the industry.
The first step prior to digging dirt is to work with the utility owners to locate underground infrastructure, you know, stuff like water pipes, gas lines, and (oh, yes) fiber-optic cables, things that, if hit by a backhoe, would have nasty consequences. The utility owners don’t hide these things like Easter eggs. They have “as-built” drawings and field experts who can locate them. They don’t want them to be cut.
For a construction company not to complete this early task means they are incompetent or simply don’t care. If the supervising agency that authorized the work and hired the contractor didn’t specify this task and oversee the work, they too are incompetent or just don’t care.
The reports in Steamboat Today suggest our public officials are looking to beef up our telecommunications redundancies. That’s nice, but building up redundancy isn’t going to happen soon and isn’t cheap. There are better and more immediate actions to take.
My suggestions: (1) Put a whole lot of pressure on the contractors and the responsible agency to do their jobs right, and (2) Levy high-dollar penalties on the construction contractors for these careless acts commensurate with the consequential damage and losses incurred.
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