(FOX 9) - In a conference call Tuesday morning with excavators in Minnesota, CenturyLink executives promised “business as usual” by mid-June.
On April 1, CenturyLink switched contractors it uses to locate utility lines, resulting in a massive backlog, putting road repairs and other construction projects weeks behind schedule.
Gopher State One Call estimates CenturyLink has missed 68,000 meet tickets, appointments for contractors and excavators to meet and discuss location of utility lines.
Brian Fanciulli, Vice-President of Regional Operations for CenturyLink, said the company did its due diligence when selecting a new contractor, DirectSAT USA, to locate utility lines.
“Obviously, it doesn’t always go as planned,” said Fanciulli. “There was no reason to believe DirectSAT could not perform.”
“They did run into issues immediately when a number of resources committed to them backed out,” added Fanciulli.
Fanciulli said CenturyLink has added its own technicians to help locate utility lines. He said he believes the backlog should be resolved by mid-June.
Contractors and excavators told FOX 9 they have lost up to a month of valuable time on construction projects while waiting for CenturyLink, or DirectSAT, to show up and locate utility lines.
Many excavators find it hard to fathom why CenturyLink would change contractors at the beginning of Minnesota’s ‘construction season.’
Fanciulli would not elaborate, saying there were “proprietary decision factors.” But, he said the issue of choosing a new contractors was not just pricing. The previous contractor, USIC, is the national leader in locating utility lines.
Tired of losing money with delays, some excavators have decided to dig without CenturyLink’s approval.
In the conference call, Jon Wolfgram, of the Minnesota Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS), read portions of the state law that says excavators will be held liable if they strike a utility line.
OPS is currently investigating CenturyLink’s change in vendors and the quality of the location work being performed.
Under state law, the utility is under an obligation to meet with excavators within two working days of a ticket being issued.
Fanciulli said contractors who have experienced financial losses due to delays may submit claims for downtime to CenturyLink’s legal department. He did not provide any assurances those claims would be reimbursed or the criteria used to evaluate such claims.