When the legislature’s Transportation Committee meets on Thursday in Baton Rouge, they’ll be looking for answers from Louisiana State Police.
At least one lawmaker wants to know why they’ve stepped up enforcement of the state’s Louisianan Underground Utilities and Facilities Damage Prevention Law.
Builders and contractors may be able to breathe a little easier because One Call officials say the Emergency Services Unit of the State Police will review all citations issued since July.
“Anything to do with digging, the State Police was enforcing a law that they hadn’t been enforcing."
Gerard Rinchuso, with Rinchuso’s Plumbing in Bossier City, says he and several fellow business owners have been hit with a barrage of citations from State Police, stemming from the Louisiana One Call law.
That law requires anyone who plans on digging to call 811 and receive a free locate request at least 48 hours before the shovel hits the dirt.
“I got hit with a $3000 fine for back filling, which we weren’t even digging,” says Rinchuso.
Contractors like Rinchuso got some welcome news after Thursday night’s meeting with Louisiana One Call Executive Director, David Frey.
“We tried to give an overview of the law and answer questions about how the law works,” explains Frey.
Frey told contractors that fines issued since July 1st will be reviewed by State Police. Rinchuso hopes this is a step toward getting the law back to its original purpose.
“[We were told that] only if you damage something is when you’re gonna get the penalty. It just depends on how severe the damage is,” says Rinchuso.
And contractors aren’t holding their tongues. District 36 Senator Robert Adley says his phone has been ringing off the hook with complaints.
“Fines for building the foundation of a home or spreading dirt to plant grass and being fined for not calling Louisiana One Call appears to me does not fit within the parameters of the law,” says Adley.
Adley says the law is in place to prevent hitting underground lines and to ensure public safety.
But he says not even an August 1st revision of the law explains the strict enforcement.
“[State Police will need to] explain why this is occurring and how this interpretation was changed without a change in the law.”
As for business owners, they’re just hoping for a little breathing room.
“It’s just too much for a small business company to operate,” Rinchuso explains.
It’s free to call 811 and begin the process to get a permit and begin digging.
For more information on the law and how to obtain a dig permit, click here.