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City of Lawrence issues cease and desist order to AT&T, citing ‘reckless behavior’

Article updated at 4:38 p.m. Thursday, July 15:

The city of Lawrence on Thursday announced it has filed a cease and desist order against AT&T, the telecommunications company, and all of its contractors to stop ongoing projects.

Citing “numerous” complaints from both residents and other utility companies working in the city, the city highlighted “instances of AT&T and its contractors hitting other public utility and competitor’s facilities without utility locates being performed in advance” as the impetus for the order.

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Performing utility work without locates — a system of ground markings that identify the position of utility lines based on records or electronic locating equipment and documentation — is illegal in Kansas.

“The City is issuing the Cease and Desist Order to be proactive in protecting the safety and functional infrastructure of our community,” the city said in a statement Thursday. “Kansas law requires utility locates be performed in advance of work in public rights of way and utility easements. Utility locates help protect our community against service disruptions and risks to safety, including electrocution and gas leaks.”

Lawrence officials, the statement said, have tried to communicate with AT&T about the issues, but have not seen corrective action taken. In addition to ongoing projects being ordered to stop, the city will not issue right-of-way permits necessary for utility work to the company until the issues are addressed.

“The City understands that telecommunications services are important to businesses and residents and looks forward to working with AT&T on a resolution,” the statement said.

Mark Giga, an AT&T spokesperson, said via email Thursday that “We take utility locating procedures and construction safety very seriously. We are in contact with the City of Lawrence to resolve this.”

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