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Pipeline to information needs clarity

Compared with Europe, the United States is a young country and although we talk about historic districts and national heritage, we are a relatively new nation.

Across the United States, however, there is an increasing incidence of failing infrastructure. Red pottery water pipes, laid a century ago, are disintegrating under the constant rumble of modern traffic; domestic pipelines become entangled and filled with tree roots; and electricity lines suffer from weather damage.

In Boulder City, some of this infrastructure is the responsibility of the homeowner to maintain and repair. For example, the water and sewer lines from a residence out to the sidewalk are the homeowner’s responsibility. But where do the homeowner’s liabilities end and the city’s begin?

A few weeks ago I was walking up Utah Street and saw a neighbor in the middle of the sidewalk. Thinking she had fallen I hurried, only to find that she was digging a huge hole in the dirt outside her house.

It seems that she had discovered she had a problem with her plumbing when her toilet would not flush properly. A local plumber came and snaked out her lines and found tree roots blocking the pipes. He advised her to go to City Hall and find out what she needed to do.

At City Hall she found helpful employees but, unfortunately, the information they gave her was outdated and basically wrong. When they heard that she wanted to dig they said it was OK. She would only need a permit if she was digging through asphalt or concrete. My neighbor asked for some written documentation and was given an information sheet — for Henderson.

So, my neighbor, thinking she was in the clear, began digging, only to find broken red clay pipes and tree roots. Eventually her neighbor came over to help her hack through large tree roots and the hole got bigger and bigger. Again she called City Hall, and was told that the person she needed to talk to was out of town.

The city inspector eventually turned up and told everyone to stop work. He informed the homeowner that she did indeed need a permit to dig, costing $300, and there was a potential fine for digging without a permit beginning at $2,300. He also told her that she needed to contact a city contractor — either Urban Jungle or Mountain Pine — to do the work.

Eventually, Mountain Pine came out to do the work and, according to my neighbor, the firm and city officials were efficient, helpful and understanding of her dilemma.

There is good news coming out of this experience: The city plans to repair much of the infrastructure under Utah Street in the near future. And I found that the city has information about excavation permits that can be found at http://www.bcnv.org/DocumentCenter/home/view/573.

The form and instructions end with the encouraging words: “The Public Works Department mission is to improve the lives of Boulder City citizens through the infrastructure we provide and maintain each day and the Capital Improvement Projects that strengthen the community into the future.”

Angela Smith is a Ph.D. life coach, author and educator who has been a resident in Nevada since 1992. She can be reached at catalyst78@cox.net

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