Investigate how KC, contractor handled permit before JJ's blast
The Kansas City Star
Businesses in the Kansas City metropolitan area often have the same rallying cry: Cut the red tape at city hall.
Even government bureaucrats admit that some of the rules, regulations and hoops to jump through can be time-consuming. In the past year Kansas City officials have approved several dozen steps, such as simplifying paperwork for small businesses, aimed at making it easier for them to operate.
But many rules and regulations are necessary to make sure a business protects the health of its employees, its customers and others.
The recent natural gas explosion that destroyed JJ’s restaurant, killed one person and injured 15 others now is the focus of needed investigations.
One should be a thorough review of how well Kansas City government and a private contractor — Heartland Midwest LLC — followed the rules in protecting the public.
So far, it appears the contractor hired to bore underground near the restaurant did, indeed, apply for an excavation permit through a fax to City Hall. The city says it cannot find that request, which is a disconcerting admission.
A key point in this dispute centers on the fact that city officials say no permit to dig was issued, which Heartland Midwest has conceded.
Eventually, the contractor began digging without the permit, a practice that would appear tough to defend.
Case closed? Not yet.
Apparently this contractor and others previously have started jobs while waiting on permits to be approved. If City Hall has allowed that to happen often in the past, the staff has seriously undermined its own reasons for requiring the permits.
But city officials deny that is the practice.
In Overland Park and Olathe, spokesmen say those cities require permits to be issued before work begins. Overland Park has fined companies that it found doing work without one, a city official said.
Going forward, Kansas City must improve how it processes permits for excavations. The city sensibly says the permits help make sure streets and sidewalks are properly restored after digging.
The Missouri Public Service Commission could help clarify the situation for the public by determining whether it’s crucial that cities regulate excavations.
If the answer is “yes,” as is likely, cities and contractors must follow the rules.