FARGO — A Fargo construction company has been fined $10,000 by the North Dakota Public Service Commission for hitting Xcel underground natural gas lines.

The commission, which unanimously approved an agreement on the case Thursday, Nov. 21, ordered Master Construction Co. to pay the fine within 10 days for seven different violations.

In the cases, Xcel said the company caused about $7,000 in damage and affected nine customers.

Xcel filed the complaints under the ND One-Call law, which requires calls before digging.

Master Construction Co. was fined $1,500 in most of the violations, which company owner Fred Schlanser said were over a number of years. "Some of them were old" complaints, he said.

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"We take trenching and excavating very seriously," Schlanser said in a phone interview. "There are a lot of variables in these situations. Our company strives for safety for our employees and others that are affected. We implement all safety measures, but at times, things get missed. These were all accidents. We can minimize those, but we can't stop them."

In the past year, the commission has ordered $47,300 in penalties for One-Call violations statewide involving 23 cases, according to Stacy Eberl, public outreach specialist for the commission. The fines ranged from $500 to $6,500.

Eberl said the fine money goes into the state's general fund.

"However, Xcel can go after the contractor for the costs of the damage and most companies do," she said. "The construction company is liable for the damages."

The complaint was originally filed last December, with both sides offered time to respond before the agreement was reached.