Years After Law, Kansas Begins Underground Utility Notification System

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 (AP) — It’s been more than a decade since lawmakers passed a law requiring the formation of an entity to lead underground utility notifications and safe digging in Kansas, and it will be another two years before that group is expected to be operational.

The Kansas Corporation Commission on Thursday approved an operating agreement between Kansas One-Call Systems Inc. and the Kansas Underground Utility Notification Center and formally recognized KUUNC as the state’s notification center, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

The move follows a 2008 decision by lawmakers that required a public entity to take over the work of KOC, a private-sector nonprofit that has been running a call center and educating Kansans about safe digging since the 1980s. The boards of the two organizations have been planning how to shift assets and operations from Kansas One-Call to KUUNC.

KOC challenged the legislative decision in court. But in 2012, the Legislature’s requirement was upheld. KUUNC since then has formed a board and begun meeting to determine what the final entity will look like and the best way to move operations.

Joe William, KUUNC’s chairman, said the recent step was “huge.”

“It’s been a long process, and I think that the KCC approving this agreement is going to really allow both of the boards to move forward,” he said. The goal is to have a transition by March 2019, he said.

The transition between the two organizations has taken considerable time, even after KOC’s court challenge was settled.

Tom Shimon, executive director of KOC, said in August that the two groups have been meeting over the years,

“You can’t point your finger at any one thing as to that’s the reason why it’s taken so long,” he said. “I guess the other thing is, Kansas One-Call has been in place for over 30 years, so there was no risk to the public or anything that the calls would go unanswered.”

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