OC Okays Directional Boring Changes

OCEAN CITY — Resort officials this week approved an ordinance tightening the regulations for directional boring under city roadways for pipes, cables and other utilities after a final tweak in the permit application fee structure.

Last spring, the Mayor and Council briefly imposed a temporary moratorium on directional drilling, a technique used frequently by utility companies to install pipes, cables, fiber optics and other conduits under the city’s roadways after a couple of incidents when infrastructure was damaged.

Because directional boring goes under the roadway largely unseen, there have been instances when city infrastructure, such as water and sewer lines, electric lines and even television cables, have been damaged or destroyed. In one notable example last winter, a gas company drilling under Philadelphia Avenue in the area of 15th Street struck a water main, opening a large hole and creating over $130,000 in damages.

To that end, Public Works staff worked throughout the winter with the private utilities on an ordinance to tighten the regulations for directional boring. Two weeks ago, the Mayor and Council reviewed the proposed ordinance changes and suggested the permit application fee structure be updated. Public Works officials went back to the drawing board and returned with a recommendation for a flat fee of $100 per application, replacing the old $1 per square foot formula. However, before passing the ordinance on first reading on Monday, Councilman Wayne Hartman suggested the language regarding the permit fees be tweaked again.

“The more I thought about it, the flat $100 fee could be something we could be taken advantage of,” he said. “If a project covers too much distance, the $100 flat fee might not cover it.”

After some debate, the council amended the proposed ordinance to set the application fee at $100 per block and another $100 for each additional block.

“They can’t come in and pay for one permit for a whole neighborhood,” said Public Works Director Hal Adkins. “Each additional block would be another $100.”

The council ultimately approved the change in the permit application fee to $100 per block.

“It really would have been unfair for someone to pay $100 for a lateral extension that might be just 12 feet while another person pays $100 for a project that spans eight city blocks,” said Councilman Dennis Dare. “I think this new language fixes that.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.