Get to know your area locators

Monty Zimmerman
Right-of-Way Manager
City of Lenexa, Kansas
Member, APWA UPROW Committee
Member, APWA Right-of-Way Management Subcommittee

How many times have you had a large project issued to a contractor for right-of-way work and had the contractor call and tell you that there are no locates after 48 hours or that only part of the project has been located? How many times has a problem occurred on a project that you need to get locates done quickly, but the problem cannot be classified by your state one-call as an emergency and you have to delay resolving the problem until locates can be completed? How many times have you had a call from a resident in your city asking why there is locate paint or flags on their property and wanting to know who will be doing work on their property?

If you have had to deal with these situations, there is an easy solution to the problem—get to know the locators in your area.

We all know that locators are very busy every day and almost year-round, but if you will take the time to get to know the locators in your area and get their phone and pager numbers, it could make your projects run smoothly. By forming good working relationships with your area locators you will have answers to the questions asked above.

On large projects you should invite area locators to the preconstruction meetings held with contractors and utilities so they will be aware of the project's start date, how the contractor plans to move forward with the project, and where and how utilities plan to relocate for the project. It's a good idea to have part of the precon agenda set aside for the project contractor, utilities and locators to work out details of phasing during the project and a schedule of when areas of the project should be called into the one-call center for locates during utility relocation and construction of the project. This will allow the locators to keep up with locates on the project as well as their daily locate load. Spacing out locates for the project will also allow the locator not to hurry through the process of locating the facilities within the project and will avoid needless updates of the locate marks during construction by the locator. It is also a good idea to work out how the locators would like to handle being contacted if a problem arises during the project. Some locators like to have every contact with them run through the project inspector or right-of-way manager, and some will allow the contractor's foreman access to their phone numbers to call them directly whenever needed.

What if a contractor doing utility relocates for a city project or your maintenance department calls you with a problem they have encountered while excavating that needs to be resolved quickly? Before the problem can be resolved you need the utilities in the area located, yet your state one-call center by law cannot classify the problem as an "emergency." This will delay the project for at least 48 hours waiting for locates and very possibly longer if the contractor or your staff needs to move to another project and has to complete that project before getting back to continue the first one. What do you do? One solution could be to have the contractor or foreman for the maintenance crew call the one-call center for a new locate ticket. While they are calling in the request, call your area locator and ask if they could do one of the following:

  • Once they receive the ticket could they move that ticket up in their schedule?
  • At some point during the day when they are near the area that needs to be located, swing by and locate the area or, as soon as they receive the ticket, go to the site and get the locate ticket done.

In most cases if you have a good relationship with the locator they will be able to help you avoid any long delays and keep them to just a few hours. On the flip side your area locator may have some problems completing one of his locate tickets in your city and may need your help. So be sure to reciprocate and help them in a timely manner.

Lastly, if you have residents that call and ask why they have locate paint or flags on their property and want to know why they are there or who will be working on their property, call your locator. He will be able to look up the ticket and tell who requested the ticket, what the ticket was for and when the work will be starting.

These are just some of the examples of how good relationships with your area locators can enable your projects to run a little more smoothly.

Monty Zimmerman is a member of APWA's Utilities and Public Right-of-Way (UPROW) Committee and Right-of-Way Management Subcommittee. He can be reached at (913) 477-7659 or