Yancey grills Paslay about utility location requests

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com

Skiatook’s city manager Monday challenged District 2 County Commissioner Kevin Paslay about repetitive utility line location requests that Paslay’s operation has made in the past few months.

Yancey said numerous of the requests concerned locating utility equipment in the same sections of county road right-of-way property (a total of 35 requests since Nov. 1 on just three areas), and he asserted that District 2 wasn’t doing any work to follow up on the requests.

“The problem is no work is being done,” Yancey said during a pointed exchange with Paslay, whose responses included references to weather difficulties and problems getting utility companies to respond.

Yancey argued that Paslay’s operation should stop calling in repetitive utility location requests on the same areas until follow-up work can be done.

“It doesn’t even make sense,” Yancey said. “You don’t think it’s excessive to call in 35 locates?”

“We’re trying to get ahold of ONG, to get ahold of AT&T,” Paslay said, commenting that he wanted to hold the companies accountable for utility equipment that was placed in the county right-of-way without going through the county’s permitting process.

Yancey said that utility operators, ranging from private companies to the city of Skiatook, are responding to the location requests, but no work is being done by District 2 to follow up and check on how deeply buried utility lines might be.

“It doesn’t make sense, what you’re talking about,” Yancey said to Paslay. “You’re not finding out how deep they are, you’re not doing anything.”

The usual process, as it was explained to the Journal-Capital, is for a county entity like District 2 to request that a utility operator do a line locate, and then follow up on that by using specialized equipment to do what is called “potholing,” the purpose of which is to find out how deeply buried a utility line is. The governmental entity that made the request follows up by doing the “potholing,” unless it makes a special request for the utility operator to do it.

What Yancey was saying was that District 2 was making repetitive location requests on the same areas, but not doing the potholing. Yancey asked Paslay who was going to find out the right depth, and Paslay indicated he expected the utility operators to do it.

“If it had been done right to start with, we wouldn’t have this problem,” Paslay said, expressing his frustration with utility operators not having followed the county’s permitting process.

District 1 Commissioner Randall Jones suggested that a plan of action needs to be jointly agreed upon by the county and utility operators to resolve the situation.

“We need to kind of work together on this so we can get it resolved,” Jones said.

Yancey echoed that sentiment, remarking that he would be looking for some plan of action to emerge in the coming weeks.

Monday marked Paslay’s first county board meeting since being charged in Osage County District Court with one felony count of bid rigging. He made no reference Monday to the charge.