Profits and lawsuits. Beware of chasing one while fearing the other.
By MARY SANCHEZ
The Kansas City Star
Both fill the atmosphere for local businesses and city governments two weeks after a ruptured natural gas line exploded, killing one person and leveling JJs restaurant.
A heightened recognition of the dangers of drilling near gas lines worked for the safety of the public last weekend. There appeared to be no hesitation when workers digging for Google Fiber damaged a gas line just south of the Country Club Plaza.
The call to evacuate was swift. And the Kansas City Fire Department, criticized for not evacuating the staff at JJs, was heavily involved as workers shut off the gas line.
With the massive project under way to wire the community with Google Fiber, well see more digging in the next few years. With that, its safe to assume crews will clip more gas lines.
Its expected to take several years to extend the ultrafast Google Fiber Internet and TV service across the area. A check of a public website that tracks such utility work gives an indication of how much activity goes on every day.
A maze, is how a spokesman for Mayor Sly James termed the various utility lines running under city streets.
Everybody should really rethink how we do things, said mayoral spokesman Danny Rotert.
A subcontractor digging for Time Warner Cable newly challenged by the much-hyped Google Fiber was working at the site of the explosion adjacent to JJs on Feb. 19. Like Saturdays scare on the work being done for Google, last months fatal fire came after workers used horizontal boring equipment to drill the way for fiberoptic lines.
After the JJs explosion, City Hall acknowledged that at least one process was changed to accelerate the work of Google, waiving excavation fees.
And after giving a pass to Google, cities were forced to give the same breaks to all telecommunication companies. The question is whether cutting bureaucracy for business comes at the expense of public safety.
Before, if a company dug without a permit, it would be fined double the permits cost, Rotert said. By waiving the fees, the city might have weakened its power to make diggers comply.
It doesnt help that that the permits must crank through a city fax machine. Thats pretty old-school.
This isnt about blame. Too much is still unknown about the fatal explosion. Separate reports from fire, police and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are expected by the end of the week. Lawsuits seem inevitable.
Given the increasing pace of work, the public shouldnt have to wait for lawsuits to be settled and reports to be final before safety is secured.
To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.