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Manhole Is Now Officially Maintenance Hole

June 23, 1990

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ Manholes have disappeared from the streets of California’s capital city, replaced, in deference to the city council’s female majority, with ″maintenance holes.″

The Public Works department in April announced an informal contest to find a gender-neutral name for the places in the street where workers go to make underground repairs.

The contest brought suggestions from far-flung locations. A radio station in Hamilton, New Zealand - Sacramento’s sister city - came up with ″sewer viewer.″ Others suggested ″peopleholes″ or even ″peepholes.″

″The Nonsexist Word Finder: A Dictionarty of Gender-Free Usage,″ by Rosalie Maggio, proffers ″sewer hole″ or ″utility access hole.″

The city council was to have named a winner at a May 9 meeting, it ducked the issue.

The new name came finally without any fuss: Reporters noticed that ″maintenance hole″ had replaced ″manhole″ in a sewer code packet adopted without discussion by the council on Tuesday.

The women on the council never ordered the name changed. The idea came from city engineering staff members who noted women controlled the council.

″I noticed the different references in the staff report, but I don’t know why they handled it that way,″ Mayor Anne Rudin said. ″I think they just wanted the matter to quiet down.″

Public works officials said the new name was adopted for a practical reason: Officials won’t have to change the ″MH″ abbreviations already in use on city utility maps.