A series of meetings across the state begins this week, for contractors, excavators and others, who plan on breaking ground in preparation for a project. The 29 meetings are sponsored by Iowa One Call. One Call Public Relations Coordinator Ben Booth says the meetings, entitled “No Margin for Error,“ are designed to teach about underground damage prevention and underground safety awareness. In addition to safety issues, Booth says there are civil penalties that need to be taken into account before you dig.

He says people don’t realize that if you’re in violation for a gas line or a line with other hazardous liquid, you could be fined as much as 10-thousand dollars per violation, per day up to one half million dollars. He says the penalties will depend upon the type of underground connection damaged. He says violations for other types of lines, such as sewer , electric or water, the penalty could be one-thousand dollars per day up to 20-thousand dollars.

A representative from the Iowa Attorney General’s Office will be on-hand at the meetings to discuss the penalty provisions. Iowa One Call is a free, and Booth says the only thing you have to do is call 48-hours in advance of any planned excavation. The toll-free number is 1-800-292-8989. That applies not only to contractors, but private home or property owners as well.

Booth says even if you’re only putting a post or stake in the ground, that’s considered an excavation. He says the rule of thumb is “if you’re going to be working the ground, going below the surface, it’s a good idea to call, to prevent yourself from getting into all kinds of trouble.”

Booth says there is no charge to attend the meetings and Booth says if you sign up in advance, you’ll be registered for a door prize, and everyone who registers will get a free small door prize. He adds that while they’re targeted at contractors and excavators, anyone who wants to attend is welcome to do so. The first meeting will be held in Ames, beginning Tuesday, January 10th, with an 11:30-a.m. luncheon. Other meetings will follow on Wednesday and Thursday, in Grinnell and Marshalltown. The last meeting takes place in Chariton, March seventh. You can find out more about the dates and times of meetings scheduled near you, or pre-register for those meetings, by logging-on to: www.iowaonecall.com