A new city regulation aims to protect public safety and avoid disasters like the Sun Prairie explosion that left one dead late last year.

The Stoughton Common Council voted unanimously to restrict right-of-way access during last week’s meeting, creating stricter regulations for contractors working in public spaces around the city.

The change will affect agencies that would do water, sanitary, sewer or gas work, as well as road repairs and boring. It is intended to help hold those agencies accountable and contractually obligate them to operate within the city’s defined safe practices, explained public works director Brett Hebert.

“We acknowledge that those who provide a public service have a right to the right-of-way, but need to have an approach to regulate them when they come into our community,” Hebert explained at the meeting.

Mayor Tim Swadley said city administration hoped to avoid what happened in Sun Prairie last year, when a gas line explosion leveled a city block, leaving one dead and dozens of buildings severely damaged.

“Businesses are going to look for loopholes to avoid cost, and this is the best attempt to do as much as we can based on the info we have at this time to protect our citizens and encourage the companies to come in here and have a seamless process to come in and do their work,” Swadley said.

The ordinance amendment changed the existing language to include contractors and subcontractors, as well as including a new permit application process.

For example, the ordinance specifies the amount of space that can be used by a contractor, such as not blocking more than one-third of any street or alley, as well as fees and termination clauses if a contractor were to violate any of the regulations defined by the ordinance.

In addition to those changes, Hebert introduced an excavation permit that would require contractors and subcontractors to apply and work with the city in order to operate in the public right-of-way.

The ordinance outlines standards and regulations regarding street openings, obstructions, temporary street signs private property in the right-of-way and the procedure for requesting approval to work.

The permit requires contractors to identify not only themselves but also the subcontractors working on the project, the project timeline and location, its purpose and the type of work activity, which includes water service, storm sewer, gas and telecommunications.

Contact Amber Levenhagen at amber.levenhagen@wcinet.com.