Officials want contractors to face background checks Goal is to prevent explosion similar to January incident

October 27, 1995|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,SUN STAFF

Carroll County officials, trying to prevent another explosion like the one that wrecked a Westminster neighborhood in January, say they want to do background checks on all contractors.

"What we're trying to do is keep the fly-by-night person from going out and causing an accident," said public works employee Jay R. Nave, who has studied the issue for several months.

"The main problem we're concerned with is public safety in county right of ways," he told the County Commissioners on Tuesday.

The Jan. 19 explosion in the Autumn Ridge neighborhood occurred after contractors hit a gas pipe. Gas leaked for about 90 minutes, making its way into a vacant house at 90 Sunshine Way, where it was ignited by a spark from a sump pump.

The house was destroyed, but no one was injured. The explosion damaged 65 other homes and caused about $1 million in damage.

Mr. Nave has proposed that the county do background checks on contractors before they may work in Carroll. The proposal is based on a Harford County ordinance, he said.

"A company would get certified by its work history," said Mr. Nave, administrative assistant in the Bureau of Roads Operations.

Public works inspectors would check a company's financial history, its equipment list, previous jobs and any outstanding lawsuits, Mr. Nave said.

The names of companies that pass the background check would be placed on a list of "prequalified" contractors that utility companies could hire to do work in Carroll, he said.

Mr. Nave estimated that 50 to 60 contractors would be included.

Utility companies now must apply for a permit before beginning work in Carroll, Mr. Nave said. Under the proposal, a $50 charge would be added to cover the costs of doing background checks on contractors, he said.

Mr. Nave proposed that if a company violated any provision of the permit, it could be fined up to $300. If a company did not obtain a permit before beginning work, it could be fined up to $500.

Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Richard T. Yates agreed Tuesday to send Mr. Nave's proposal to the county attorney's office for review.

The attorney will draft a resolution or ordinance for the commissioners to review before the proposal may be adopted.

Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown did not attend the meeting.

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