LACONIA — Utility companies which dig up city streets that have been rebuilt or resurfaced within the past five years will be required to pay a special charge to cover the cost of the new pavement.

The charges are contained in a major revision to the city’s street-protection ordinance.

The City Council unanimously approved the amended ordinance at its meeting on Oct. 13.

“This protects the city investment,” City Manager Scott Myers said, explaining its aim to minimize the times when electrical, telephone, gas, or cable TV companies dig up city streets to work on underground lines.

Under the ordinance, digging into a street which was constructed, reconstructed, or repaved five years ago or less will be prohibited, except for emergency repairs, or do repairs required by state or federal law.

Myers told the council that whenever the city plans to do major street work it contacts any utility with lines under the street ahead of time so they can coordinate any infrastructure upgrades with the city street work schedule.

However, if a utility wants to dig up a new street or new pavement — whether for routine or emergency work — it will have to pay a charge of $15 per square foot if the pavement they are digging up is two years old or less, or $10 per square foot if the pavement is between two and five years old.

Myers said similar ordinances enacted in other New Hampshire cities, including Manchester and Concord, have been found by the courts to be legal.

Ward 5 City Councilor Bob Hamel was the only member of the council to comment on the ordinance during the meeting. He said the impact of the ordinance would be higher utility costs to consumers because the utilities would pass the new expenses on to their customers. Nevertheless Hamel voted in favor of the ordinance.

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