Topeka plumbers worried after city council amendment, councilman plans to rescind

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TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Local plumbers are worried about their businesses following a change made by the Topeka City Council in August to the city’s plumbing code. The change now allows excavation contractors to do work previously only done by plumbing companies.

Patrick Grogan owns Pat Plumbing, Heating, and Air in Topeka, which does both interior and exterior work. Now, he is worried that bigger businesses will be taking that away from him and his 13 employees.

“Everyone’s impacted by that,” Grogan said. “Once you take away plumbing like that from plumbers, I mean once you take away their livelihood, they’re never going to get that back.”

Excavation contractors’ work usually involves trenching, grading, and landscaping on larger construction projects. With the amendment, they will now be able to do exterior plumbing jobs on commercial and industrial buildings.

One of Grogan’s biggest concerns is that plumbing companies have to get specific licenses to be able to do this work, and these excavation contractors do not.

“It’s definitely concerning because they would take it from one group, and give that work to another group that’s not even qualified to do the work,” Grogan said.

However, there will be another amendment to the code brought forward that will make it so that excavation contractors do have to have the same licensing, according to City Manager Brent Trout.

“There needs to be some accountability for them with regards to showing their qualifications before they can do this type of work,” Trout said.

The amendment was made by District Four City Councilman Tony Emerson, who owns Emcon, an excavation contracting company.

Following the controversy, he plans to rescind the amendment following this controversy.

“This is not an attempt in any way to take work from plumbing contractors,” Emerson said. “This is an attempt to do the right thing for development in Topeka.”

However, rescinding the amendment must be approved by a majority of the city council.

Until then, Grogan will continue to fight for his business, and other local plumbers as well.

“Everybody has a chance to stand up for what’s right, and when you look at how all of this went through, it’s just not right,” Grogan said.

Emerson will make the move to rescind the amendment at the next city council meeting on Tuesday. He hopes to be able to sit down with local plumbers and possibly come up with a better amendment, he said.

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