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Kansas City is making Spire repair its road damage before issuing any new work permits

Wide angle view of a street intersection shows people working where a fresh laydown of pavement has been cutaway and patched temporarily.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
A crew from Premium Construction works at the intersection of Linwood Boulevard and Forest Avenue on Thursday where Spire recently cut through freshly paved roadwork, violating Kansas City's street excavation rules.

The city stopped issuing new work permits after utility crews left a recently-resurfaced road torn up, violating the city's regulations on road construction.

Spire Energy on Thursday began to repair roads damaged by its utility crews after Kansas City announced it would temporarily refuse to issue new work permits to the company. But it’s not clear when the Department of Public Works will lift the freeze.

The city said that Spire Energy dug a trench through the recently-repaved Linwood Boulevard, violating new road construction regulations put in place by Kansas City Council last year.

City Manager Brain Platt tweetedthat it was “one of a few examples of blatant disregard of our new street excavation rules” and that the city wouldn’t issue new permits until the company made “improvements.”

Kansas City’s ordinance, passed last August, requires that utility companies fix up roads after they finish underground work, especially on newly paved streets. Specifically, the rules require:

  • A full lane-width repair of pavement cut on streets paved within the last five years.
  • Improved backfilling material underneath patching.
  • Temporary street plates must be embedded in the pavement, not just placed on top of the street.
  • Patches 10 feet apart must be combined into one large patch.

Public Works spokesperson Sherae Honeycutt said that the city has met regularly with Spire about the resurfacing project.

“Spire was aware of our plans and ignored them, afterwards claiming emergency work was needed there,” Honeycutt said. “In addition to the problems on Linwood Boulevard, we have identified other recent instances of this on Gillham Road, 27th Street, and 31st Street.”

A spokesperson for Spire disputes the city's timeline of events, saying that they put in a permit in April for the work on Linwood. Stephen Mills, Spire’s vice president and general manager for western Missouri, said the energy company had no prior warning about the halting of work permits, and was surprised by the decision.

“We've been following all the city ordinances and all the public work guidelines and everything within the new street cut ordinance that specifies processes,” Mills said. “So we feel that we've been following all that and we've done everything that you can do in good working order.”

Honeycutt says Spire has also torn up newly repaved streets on Southwest Boulevard and Southwest Trafficway, Oak Street and sidewalks in Brookside.

Since Kansas City informed Spire about the permit freeze, Mills says they’ve been communicating with the city about the Linwood project and started making repairs. Later, a Spire spokesman said the company always planned to clean up Linwood after they completed underground work.

“Crews are out today milling and resurfacing the road, which we're really excited to see,” Honeycutt said. “We are really looking forward to seeing Linwood restored to how it was when we put the resurfacing down.”

The street excavation requirements and conflict with Spire come after the city made it a priority to repave about 300 miles of roads annually. Since August of last year, 347 lane miles have been resurfaced.

“We have been very aggressive in how we are resurfacing our streets and have this new plan that we put in place to get a lot of our roads resurfaced faster,” Honeycutt said. “So to see that torn up, it's really disheartening. We want people to know that their tax dollars aren't going to waste – that if these roads are torn up we are going to hold the utility accountable.”

Mills said the halt in new permits isn’t stopping their service to residential customers.

“I think the city of Kansas City, Spire, we all have the same goal of improving the city's infrastructure,” Mills says. “Sometimes those plans overlap, but we'll continue the dialogue with the city.”

While Honeycutt said the city has been encouraged by Spire’s efforts on Linwood, it’s still holding off on issuing new work permits.

She said there’s not an exact date the city will resume the permit process, but they’re continuing to have “positive conversations” with the company.

Updated: August 5, 2022 at 9:55 AM CDT
Updated with additional comments from Spire.
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