Administration seeks tougher guidelines for street excavations

As depressions and pits form in Williamsport’s streets following excavation work, it’s no surprise problems can arise for motorists.

Vehicles can buckle, alignments can be thrown out of whack and tires and other parts of the car or truck can burst.

Now, the city administration and City Council want to consider revising the excavation ordinance covering the length of time required by utilities to go back and make necessary repairs when streets cave in at their numerous work sites.

“We’ve got to hold utilities more accountable,” said Mayor Gabriel J. Campana, who proposes extending the length of time utilities pay for damage from the current two up to five years.

“I’ve got to get this passed because we’re about to perform $2 million worth of street reconstruction this fall,” he said prior to a Public Works Committee meeting Tuesday. “Once the two-year warranties expires the city taxpayers foot the bill,” he said.

Councilmen N. Clifford “Skip” Smith, Don Noviello and Councilwoman Bonnie Katz agreed with Campana’s idea but first wanted to sit down with representatives of the utilities.

“This is something the taxpayers will be able to see,” Noviello said if the repairs are covered over five years and not placed back onto the city expense.

Noviello also said he could understand how utilities might not be able to tell if there’s a leak in old infrastructure or if heavy equipment rattling may cause unseen damage 40 feet from where the excavation takes place.

William C. Wright, general manager of the city’s Streets and Parks Department, has suggested that after excavation holes are patched over not enough additional milling and repair work is done to fortify the work site.

That, he said, would cost the utilities extra.

Smith said the utilities would probably end up absorbing the extra repair costs and passing them onto their customers throughout the coverage area.

“Utilities need to take additional responsibilities,” Campana said. “The point is if the street is not in good shape they (should) return and fix it.”

In some cases, the utility would be responsible for revamping the whole city block where the work is getting done, he added, a plan consistent with how the state Department of Transportation does business.

The proposal won’t be on this week’s council agenda. The committee agreed to hold at least another work session meeting with a solicitor and the utilities.