Public Works FAQ Public Works - Home | Departments
ADA

How many ADA parking stalls do I need for my parking lot?
The number of ADA accessible parking stalls required are based on the total parking spaces provided by a business.

Business Signs

Can I place a sign on my business by myself?
If the business is operated from a commercial or retail building, the property owner may obtain a permit to place a sign on property. Paperwork needed to secure a business sign permit include: a site plan showing the location of the sign as relates to property lines, a drawing illustrating height and size of sign, a hold harmless agreement, a certificate of insurance and a completed Property Owner's Sign Application. The City Attorney's Office and the Public Works Administration must approve all submitted business sign permit paperwork.

All business signs are required to remain within size limitations zoned for specific areas within the city. Contact the Metro Planning Office Zoning Inspector at 368-3728 to obtain the business sign zoning requirements for your property.

To apply for the permit or obtain further information, contact the Development Services One-Stop Shop at 368-3704, 620 SE Madison - 3rd Floor. Permit fees are based on type of business sign installation: portable signs are $10.00; wall signs are $33.00; and pole, ground or monument signs are $63.00.

Contact the Metro Planning Office at 368-3728 for information on home-based business signs.

Biosolids Land Application

What are Biosolids?
Biosolids are the solid, semi-solid, or liquid material generated during the treatment of domestic sewage in the wastewater treatment works.

How is the groundwater protected when Biosolids are applied to agricultural lands?
Biosolids are applied at agronomic rates. This means that they are applied at a rate based on the fertilizer value of the Biosolids and the fertilizer demand of the crop. Soil samples are collected and sent to Kansas State University to determine the residual fertilizer in the soil and to determine the amount of Biosolids needed to supplement the demands of the crop type. No more is applied than needed ensuring protection of the groundwater and surface water.

Who regulates the application of Biosolids?
Biosolids are regulated under the Code of Federal Regulations Part 503, which was passed on February 19, 1993. The Environmental Protection Agency is ultimately the regulator. The Kansas Department of Health & Environment (KDHE) administers the Code. The City of Topeka is required to submit yearly reports of its land application activities to the KDHE.

Are there any health concerns with Biosolids application?
The rules for the use of Biosolids have been promulgated on very conservative risk assessments to ensure the ultimate safety of the product. The City of Topeka Biosolids exceed the protocol for land application as it is not only aerobically digested, but also, composted. The requirement in farm application is that public access be limited for 30 days after land application. The City of Topeka also produces another product which meets the standard of Class A Biosolids, which are approved for unrestricted use as this product is cured to a very high standard and tested extensively to ensure that the standard has been met.

Are there metals to be concerned about in Biosolids?
Metals in Biosolids can be a problem in some communities that are heavily industrialized. In the past years, however, industrial pretreatment programs throughout the country have been successful in reducing metal levels down to safe "unregulated" levels. Topeka does not have a metal problem with its Biosolids as its primary industry is food production and its industrial pretreatment program was one of the first in the U.S. dating back to 1975. Topeka's Biosolids are considered metal clean.

Do Biosolids have an odor?
The short answer is yes. The long answer is that the degree depends on the treatment type and the method employed in the application. These odors can be reduced to levels not noticeable by the public if properly applied. A composted material such as that generated at the Oakland Wastewater Treatment Plant has only a faint odor to begin with and will not give off a noticeable odor once tilled in by the farmer. Our Division requires daily tillage in areas where farm application is in the vicinity of housing.

Certificate of Completion and Occupancy

Where do I get a Certificate of Completion and Occupancy for my building?
Certificates of Occupancy are issued through the Development Service One-Stop Shop Field/Inspection Section, 620 SE Madison - 3rd Floor. For questions about your Certificate of Occupancy call 368-3905.

Claims

Who do I contact if I feel entitled to a claim for property damage from a water main break or a street project?
To submit a claim, obtain and remit a completed claim form to the City's Clerks Office. Filed claims are forwarded to the Legal Department.

Digging by Utilities in Emergency

Does the city have permission to dig in my backyard easement without my knowledge?
Yes, on an emergency basis. If it is not an emergency, they will notify you.

If I have a fence in my backyard during this digging, who is responsible for putting the fence back up?
The property owner is responsible for putting the fence back up.

Easements

Who mows the drainage easements?
The citizen who maintains the property or the Storm Water Utility. Contact the Storm Water Utility at 368-3851 for information on specific easement.

If a drainage easement overflows into a yard, who is responsible for the damage?
The property owner is responsible for damage from easement overflows.

Who will remove the stump on the easement?
Contact the Forestry Department at 368-3111

Environmental Pollution

How can I help reduce water pollution?
Never dump pollutants down the drain and return your recyclables to a designated pickup location.

The Shawnee County Household Hazardous Waste Collection Site will dispose of any used motor oil, automotive fluids, paints, pesticides, herbicides, and other materials. Also, Shawnee County Recycling provides many convenient locations to drop off your recyclable goods.

How can I help to reduce stormwater pollution?
Never rake grass or leaves into storm drains. Grass and leaves contribute to drainage back-ups and waterway pollution. It is best to compost in your back yard or to bag grass and leaves for landfill disposal.

Also, remember to remove pet wastes from yards and dispose with your regular trash and to follow directions when applying fertilizers and pesticides on lawn and gardens.

Forestry

Who takes care of the trees that are on the right-of-way?
Contact the Forestry Department at 368-3111

Housing and Unsafe Structures Code/Demolitions

How many people are displaced by demolition orders?
None. 99% of the unsafe structures have been abandoned for a number of years. The exception occurs when a structure has been extensively damaged by a fire and the occupants have relocated due to the fire damage.

Can residents of an occupied dwelling be displaced?
Possibly. If a property is in such disrepair and so substandard, a placard hearing would first be conducted by the Hearing Officer to determine if the structure is unfit for human habitation. If the structure is ordered placarded and vacated, residents are given a list of housing opportunities and referrals. Further, the time specified for vacating the premises cannot be less than 72 hours nor more than 30 days.

What condition does a structure have to be in to be demolished?
Typically, a structure that becomes a candidate for demolition has been abandoned for many years, and is in such a deteriorated condition that the cost to repair electrical, plumbing and heating systems, and roofs, doors, windows, and siding exceeds 15% of the replacement cost. For example, if the replacement cost of your house is $90,000, and the repair costs exceed 15% or $13,500, a hearing could be conducted and the Hearing Officer could issue an order to repair or demolish. The property owner is always given the option and opportunity to make repairs or to demolish the structure themselves.

What rights does a property owner have under the Unsafe Structures Code?
Under state law and local ordinance, the City must notify the owner, mortgagee and parties in interest that a hearing has been scheduled. The hearings are conducted by an impartial Hearing Officer who renders a decision after hearing from the City and the property owner. In most cases, the property owner can request and receive a 30-90 day extension to make repairs. Should the property owner not agree with the Hearing Officer's decision, they can file for injunctive relief in the District Court.

What do I do if I can't afford to repair my house?
The City has programs in place that assist low to moderate income, elderly and disabled residents. Program guidelines and application forms can be obtained from the Housing and Neighborhood Department.

Does the Housing Code allow you to kick in my door to conduct an inspection?
Absolutely not. Inspectors must identify themselves, state the purpose of their visit, and request permission to enter the premises. If entry is refused, the inspector must prepare an inspection warrant request through the City Attorney. The inspector must then appear before a District Court judge who will determine if there is probable cause to issue a warrant.

What remedy does a property owner have if they disagree with a violation notice?
The violation notice always notifies the recipient of their right to a hearing before the Hearing Officer. The request must be made within 10 days of receiving the notice. At the hearing, the property owner can present their case and seek an extension of time or a variance from code requirements.

Why does the City want to tear down so many houses?
We don't. We have a Housing Code so that we can monitor the maintenance of properties and prevent them from becoming dilapidated and unfit for human use or habitation. The City always places a priority on voluntary compliance and rehabilitation of residential structures.

Inspections

Does Development Service offer off-hour inspections? What is the fee?
Yes! After hours and weekend inspections are available as inspector schedules allow. The charge is $100.00. Billing is incurred in half-hour increments.

Contact the Development Services Field Services Office at 368-3905 to schedule off-hour inspections.

Who can explain/define a special inspection request and when one is required?
Contact the Development Services at 368-3905 Field Services Office at 368-3905.

Licenses

Which department do I contact to become a licensed contractor?
To obtain a Contractor License, submit an application with proof of designated master and insurance to the Developmental Services Field Services located at 620 SE Madison - 3rd Floor between 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The phone number is 368-3905.

A Contractor License permit is $250.00.

Parking

How much does it cost to park at a parking meter?
Rates vary depending on the time limit of the parking meter. For those parking meters with time limits of 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, and 4 hours, the hourly rate is $.65. For 10 hour time limit parking meters, the hourly rate is $.40.

How much is a parking ticket?
For an expired meter violation or for parking beyond the posted time limit, the fine is $3.00. The City Code states that each hour that a vehicle is parked in violation of any block zone is a separate and distinct violation. For a second and each successive violation in the same space/block zone, the fine is $15.00. This amount is set by city code.

If you feel that you have received a parking ticket in error, you may fill out this form and return it to the Parking Section Office. If this process does not resolve your issue, you may file an Administrative Hearing Request form.

What is a block zone?
A block zone is any hundred block of any street and includes both sides of the street.

What is the Kansas Avenue block zone?
That area of Kansas Avenue between 6th Street and 10th Street including both sides of the street.

What is the rate for hourly parking in the Townsite, Park-N-Shop, and Ninth Street parking garages?
The rate is $.60 per hour.

What is the monthly rate for parking in the City parking garages?
For current rates, please contact the Parking Garage Space Leasing Office at 368-3759 or e-mail rwebb@topeka.org.

Permits

Where do I get a building or trade permit?
At the Development Services Permit Offices located at 620 SE Madison - 3rd Floor. Development Services Permit Offices reviews and issues the following building permits: building, fence, demolition, temporary use of street right of way, excavation, swimming pool, tanks, sign, sidewalk, driveway and parking lot. The building permit phone number is 368-3704.

The Field Services Division of Development Services issues the following trade permits: plumbing, electrical, mechanical, water softener and lawn sprinkler installation permits. The trade permit phone number is 368-3905. Permit fees vary with range and complexity of work or project.

Where do I submit revisions to my building application?
Submit your revisions to the Development Services Permit Office located at 620 SE Madison - 3rd Floor.

Do I have to have a permit to put up a fence?
If the fence is existing and you are making repairs, you do not need a permit. But if you are replacing an old fence or installing a new fence site on your property, you will need to apply for a fence permit.

For the permit review, a site plan of the property with intended lot placement of fence must be submitted along with an application to the Developmental Services One-Stop Shop located at 620 SE Madison - 3rd Floor. The building permit phone number is 368-3704.

The fee for fence permits range from $33.00.

Do I have to have a permit for a metal garden shed building?
A permit is not required if the shed dimensions are 150 square feet or less. If garden shed footage exceeds 150 square feet, a building permit must be obtained through the Developmental Services Permit Office located at 620 SE Madison - 3rd Floor.

The materials required for a permit review include: a site plan of the property indicating the placement on the lot, construction drawings along with footage information and a completed building permit application. The fee for the permit is $33.00.

What's this improvement going to do to my taxes?
To obtain pertinent tax information, contact the Shawnee County Assessor's Office.

Work is being done at a (certain location) - What's going to be there?
The Development Services Permit Office Shop can confirm a valid building permit, provide information on intended use or investigate location with an on-site inspection.

Do we need a permit for a dog run?
No, permits are not issued for dog runs.

How much is a building permit?
Building permit fees are based on proposed property construction. If planning a project on a residence, call the Development Services Permit Office at 368-3704 to receive information on the permit cost.

Commercial permit fees are based on construction costs. Call the Development Services Permit Office at 368-3704 for receive information on the plan review fee and the permit fee.

Do I need a permit for a driveway?
Residential driveway permits are issued for drive approaches only. A drive approach is defined as the area between the street (curb) and the front property line (may include public sidewalk). To obtain a driveway approach permit, contact the Development Services Permit Office at 368-3704 and provide the information necessary for a permit. The permit fee is $53.00. After a permit is issued, the construction site level, and the forms ready for concrete pour call the construction inspection office at 368-3849 for an on-sight instpection. Concrete can only be poured after an inspection has been made.

Do I need a demolition permit to tear down part of my building?
The Development Services Permit Office does not issue permits for partial demolitions. Permits for demolition are only issued when a building is completely torn down.

When demolitions occur, the City will check to ensure that the existing sewer line has been completely capped off properly and that the site has been cleared of debris. Also, the City will notify the county to remove demolished buildings from the tax rolls.

Plan Reviews

Does Development Services offer Fast Track Plan Check Service?
Expedited Plan Review is available for commercial projects at twice the normal fee.

When is the fee due for submitting plans and filing for a building permit?
There is not a fee when the plan is submitted. Both the building permit fee and the plan review fee are paid for when the permit is picked up.

Project Notification and Complaints

Who handles complaints about on-going projects?
Contact Engineering at 368-3842.

Does the City notify people before they start a project?
Yes - in the immediate area.

Refuse

Who do I call if my trash wasn't picked up?
Contact Shawnee County Refuse at 233-4774

Sewer Backups

Who do we call for raw sewage coming up in our basement?
Contact the Operator at Water Pollution Control at 368-3851 Ext. 0.

Sidewalks

Who do we report bad sidewalks to?
Contact Construction Inspection at 368-3848.

Who's responsible to repair/replace the sidewalk in front of my residence?
Property owners are responsible to replace any broken or unlevel sidewalk running along the front or side on their property. They should contact the Development Services Permit Office at 368-3704 to apply for a permit for the repairs. Once the new sidewalk has been formed and ready for concrete, the property owner must contact Construction Inspection at 368-3849 for an inspection before pouring the concrete. Permit fee: $33.00.

Stormwater and Drainage

What is stormwater?
Stormwater is the water not absorbed by the ground or impervious surfaces that runs off our community after a rain event. Saturated ground or impervious surfaces such as roofs, driveways, and streets all increase the amount of water which will ultimately make its way to the rivers and streams that flow through our community. This water can carry along with it material deposited on the surface including fertilizers, pesticides, gas & oil residues, etc. This material can be deleterious to the receiving waters.

We have a problem with water drainage onto our property from our neighbors, what can we do?
Contact Kelly Haller at 368-424 khaller@topeka.org or Stephen Miller at 368-1640 stmiller@topeka.org at the Water Pollution Control Stormwater Drainage Section.

Street Lights

Who do we call for street lights out?
Contact Traffic Operations at 368-3913 or e-mail jfultz@topeka.org. You may also report it via e-mail at streetlightout@topeka.org or submit this form.

Street Signs

Where do we go to get our street sign put back up - it was run over last night?
Contact Traffic Operations at 368-3913 or e-mail gbothwell@topeka.org.

Survey Property

Can you come out and survey my property?
The City of Topeka does not perform on-site surveys; however, we can provide general information to help you locate your property pins or property boundaries. Contact a local Registered Land Surveyor or Engineering/Surveying Firm to assist you with your on-site survey needs.

In addition, most mortgage companies will require a mortgage title inspection (MTI) when a home is purchased. If you did not receive an MTI, or an older form known as an Improvement Location Certificate (ILC) when you closed on your property, contact the title insurance company which worked with your mortgage company. They may have a copy of an MTI or ILC for your property in their archive, or may be able to direct you to the last provider of that service for your property.

Underground Utilities
We have flags placed in our yard. What are they for?
They are underground utility or survey markers. They are identified as follows:

  • Red - Electric
  • Yellow - Gas
  • Orange - Cable & Phone
  • Blue - Water
  • Green - Sewer
  • Pink - Temporary Survey Markings
  • White - Proposed Excavation

Utility Billing

Wastewater charges to commercial and industrial customers are based on actual monthly water usage or measured wastewater volume. For residential customers, the average water billed during the months of January, February and March are used to estimate the wastewater volume for the wastewater charge for the following nine months. This procedure eliminates most of the water used for lawn sprinkling from the wastewater charges.

Can I dispute my meter reading and have it checked for accuracy?
Certainly, customers may question the amount of their bill. Topeka Water has implemented an automatic meter reading system and this has reduced the number of incorrect readings to nearly zero. The most common problem causing high bills is faulty plumbing. You may contact the Utility Call Center at 368-3111 to request further information specific to your account.

What is the Kansas Water Plan and what does it pay for?
Kansas Law requires water utilities to collect money for the Kansas Water Plan. The amount collected will depend on actual water usage. The Kansas Water Plan was developed to address State water issues such as flood management, water pollution, viability of public water supplies, and wetland protection.

What is the amount of my bill and when is it due?
The amount of your bill and its due date are available by contacting the Utility Call Center at 368-3111.

Water Quality and Consumer Information

Why is my drinking water cloudy?
Millions of tiny air bubbles in the water cause the cloudy or "milky" appearance. This occurs because cool water is more saturated with air than warm water. When cool water is exposed to warm household plumbing, the air supersaturated in the cool water will bubble and escape. The resulting opaque and cloudy appearance is not a health concern.

Does Topeka Water add fluoride to its drinking water?
Yes, Topeka adds fluoride to your drinking water. Fluoride has been added to public drinking water supplies since the early 1950's to fight tooth decay.

What is the hardness of Topeka's water?
Hardness is a measure of the amount of minerals, i.e. calcium and magnesium, dissolved in water. The average hardness of Topeka's water is 9 grains per gallon. The normal average range is 6-12 grains per gallon.

To address your water quality questions, please contact Mary Von Arb at mvonarb@topeka.org.

Can I have my water tested? Will you test for lead?
Yes, we would be glad to test your water for you. Please call 368-1965 to schedule a sample collection time. There is not a charge for this service.

Is chlorinated water safe for fish?
No. Fish require non-chlorinated water. Topeka tap water contains chloramine disinfectant. You can remove the chloramine by adding a special neutralizing chemical that is available at pet supply stores. To learn more about the special needs of different fish species, contact your pet store personnel.

Why does the taste of tap water change?
The taste of water is caused by the minerals and naturally occurring organic substances dissolved in the water. Some of these substances impart a strong taste, while others do not. Taste in water is a complex issue involving many factors: individual preferences, taste sensitivity, seasonal changes, water source(s), salt levels, water temperature, medications, home plumbing, and many other factors. Your water is continuously tested and monitored to ensure that it is safe for consumption.

Is water with chlorine in it safe to drink?
Yes. Many studies have shown that the amount of chlorine found in treated water is safe to drink. Chlorine is needed to maintain disinfection throughout the water distribution system. The potential for risk from microbial contamination outweighs any risk associated with chlorine.

Is tap water suitable for use in a home kidney dialysis machine?
No, not without further treatment. Aluminum, fluoride, and chloramine are examples of substances that are not acceptable in water used for kidney dialysis. Kidney dialysis centers are knowledgeable about water quality issues. Always consult with your doctor on this matter.

Who do I contact if I have red water and what will they do?
Questions and comments concerning red water should be directed to the Utility Call Center at 368-3111.  Complaints will be documented to ensure future main replacements projects are appropriately prioritized.  Additionally, affected water mains will be flushed to alleviate red water problems.  Topeka Water customers may request water main flushing at any time if they are experiencing red water problems.

Should I buy bottled water or a home water treatment device?
Topeka Water is dedicated to supplying high quality water to our customers. The water that we produce goes through a rigorous purification process and complies with all federal and state safety regulations. A copy of our Annual Water Quality Report is available on our web site. Additionally, copies are sent to all our patrons. The Annual Water Quality Report provides a listing and explanation of all regulated contaminants found in our drinking water during the previous year.

For individuals insisting water completely void of any detectable level of chlorine or regulated contaminants, purchasing bottled water or installing home treatment devices remains a viable alternative. Topeka tap water costs less than .0035¢ per gallon compared to $1 or more per gallon for bottled water. It is also important to remember that home treatment systems require proper maintenance. Over time, home treatment filters lose their effectiveness and bacteria may colonize, amplify and contaminate filtered water. Always follow manufacturer's recommendations when replacing filters in any home treatment unit.

Wastewater

What is wastewater?
Wastewater is the spent water of the community. It is the water we use for laundry, bathing, dishwashing, flushing, etc. that exits our homes to the sewer system.

Where does the wastewater go after it leaves our home?
The wastewater is collected via of system of sewers and pump stations and is routed to the wastewater treatment plant for treatment. In Topeka, we have in place a system of 760 miles of sewer and 73 pump stations to accomplish this task.

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