Underground Protection Agency Celebrates Valley Milestone | News, Sports, Jobs

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Correspondent Photo/Sean Barron Roger L. Lipscomb, president and executive director of the Ohio Utilities Protection Service, left, receives a proclamation from State Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield, to recognize the 50th anniversary of the OUPS at a ceremony and lunch Wednesday at its North Jackson offices.

NORTH JACKSON — A longtime statewide agency created to protect underground gas lines and other utilities is celebrating a key anniversary and milestone.

“We are the communication link between those who need to dig and those who own, operate or maintain underground infrastructure in Ohio,” said Roger L. Lipscomb, president and executive director of the Ohio Utilities Protection Service.

Lipscomb was among those who attended an outdoor celebration and lunch Wednesday at the OOPS office, 12467 Mahoning Ave., to celebrate the agency’s 50th anniversary in the Mahoning Valley.

OUPS, also known as “OHIO811”, is under the aegis of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. Additionally, OUPS, established in 1972 in the valley, is the nation’s third-oldest call center for underground utility protection, Lipscomb noted.

OUPS is a “private, not-for-profit corporation, although it performs public functions”, he said, adding that its members include a variety of municipal entities, government agencies, service companies public and others.

It’s essential that residents and businesses wanting to dig on their properties call 811 before installing mailboxes, building decks, planting trees or doing other projects that require digging, Lipscomb said. .

Once such a request is made to the appropriate utility company, a color coded flag will be placed on the site to indicate what is below the surface. The flags are of four colors: yellow for gas pipes, red for power lines, orange for communications infrastructure and blue to indicate water pipes, he noted.

Additionally, homeowners are responsible for having private utility lines properly marked, according to the OUPS website.

Ohio Senate Bill 378 was passed in 2014 to provide a regulatory and enforcement mechanism to protect underground utility facilities.

Initial efforts will be made to educate and “behavior change” people who don’t comply by digging without proper notification, Lipscomb said. Those who continue to engage in such conduct could face fines ranging from $2,500 to $10,000, he warned.

The keynote speaker for the event was Jenifer French, President of PUCO, who also emphasized the importance of calling 811 before performing anything that requires a search.

In 2015, a 17-member advisory committee of industry experts, called the Underground Technical Committee, was formed to investigate complaints of possible violations and recommend action including fines and penalties for non-compliance. -compliance, French noted.

“We’ve seen the number of claims go up” and the amount of underground damage go down, she said.

“We need (OOPS) in our community; we need to have that in our community,” added State Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield.

The gathering also included tours of a timeline that captures key events in the Mahoning Valley over the agency’s 50 years, as well as its major accomplishments. Tours of an educational and simulation trailer, as well as an electric trailer, were also available.

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