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Topeka City Councilman clears confusion on city’s plumbing code change

Topeka City Council meet with a hybrid approach to discuss the 2021 budget. (Aug. 11, 2020)
Topeka City Council meet with a hybrid approach to discuss the 2021 budget. (Aug. 11, 2020)(Production Control | Joseph Hennessy)
Published: Oct. 9, 2020 at 6:26 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -A Topeka City Council member spoke out Friday about confusion on a change to the city’s plumbing code.

The council approved it in August and several local plumbers have attended meetings since then, expressing concerns.

Topeka City Council members adopted amendments to the international plumbing code, it allows other contractors such as excavators to do work that’s typically required to be done by licensed plumbers.

Tuesday, several plumbers told the council their jobs are in jeopardy.

“I don’t think plumbers are upset with excavators, I’m not I have a lot of friends in that business, but the point is that we go to plumbing school, we have four years of apprenticeship before you can be a journeyman and then four years of journeyman to be a master and to just let excavators go and put in these sewers is silly,” said one plumber who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting.

Friday, councilman Mike Lesser clarified the change only effects industrial and commercial projects -not residential work.

“Let me be clear; I will NOT support any language that would enter into the residential area of plumbing operations and cost our local plumbing contractors work and income. I only support the change with regards to industrial and commercial work as noted in the ordinance which I believe is best for the City of Topeka as a whole,” Lesser said in a statement.

Some of the plumbers and councilwoman Christina Valdiva- Alcala also expressed concern about councilman Tony Emerson’s support for the change, they say it may be a conflict of interest due to his contracting businesses.

Lesser defended Emerson’s position.

“Many of us that come on council know that we have a right to own our own business and we sign a disclosure of acting ethically in what we’re doing but it also doesn’t say we have a right to make a living.. there’s a lot of honorable people in this world and Tony Emerson is about as high on the list to me.”

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