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Columbia County task force wants all contractors checked with proper permits and licenses observed

Posted: June 20, 2015 - 11:05pm

A task force formed to rid Columbia County of unlicensed contractors proposed a cleansing process Wednesday that starts with building inspectors visiting job sites to confirm all construction companies and trade businesses operating locally are properly permitted.

During a 90-minute roundtable discussion, the three-person study committee said the sweep would start with electrical, mechanical, plumbing and general contracting businesses before moving to painters, roofers and house framers, each of which is not required to be licensed under Georgia law.

The panel, which consists of licensed electrician Rob Zapata and residential and commercial builders Mark Ivey and Steve Clifton, described the effort as a way to get “back to the basics” and ensure contractors don’t fall victim to insurance fraud.
“We are not going to catch everybody, but we need to enforce our occupational tax certificates better by requiring contractors to have a copy with them at all times on job sites,” said County Administrator Scott Johnson. “It’s our first line of defense.”

Most contractors are required by law to obtain a license and general liability insurance for their company.

Roofers, painters and house framers, however, are not – creating a gap in the industry that officials say puts some construction firms and trade professionals at risk because if an uninsured subcontractor gets hurt while working on a house, whoever hired them might have to pay the bill.

A recent incident cast light on the issue. Ricardo R. Aguas, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, died May 16 after falling from the second story of a single-family home under construction in Evan’s Bartram Trail neighborhood. Aguas and his three brothers were working for an unlicensed Martinez subcontractor hired by Ashworth Homes to frame the house.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Admini­stration is investigating the fall to determine whether safety regulations were violated.

In the meantime, Colum­bia County is searching for ways to stop contractors who are violating licensing laws or intentionally cutting corners.

On first offense, unlicensed contracting is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $1,000 fine. Second and subsequent offenses are felonies.

“The biggest issue is insurance,” Ivey said.

Ivey said larger builders are not allowed to have anyone on a job site not covered under general liability insurance, but firms with fewer than four employees can skirt the law because they are not required to have workers compensation policies.

If a company has fewer than 11 employees, Zapata said, they do not have to participate in E-verify, an online system for determining the eligibility of employees to work in the U.S.

Erin Hall, Columbia County’s licensing and permits manager, said the majority of local contractors have fewer than six employees.

“We have to get out there and police it,” said Zapata.

Enforcement of the new proposal is still being ironed out, but the committee described a system where code enforcement officers would investigate sites after receiving complaints from 311 operators or building inspectors.

The study committee is expected to report its findings to Columbia County Development Advisory Board next month for eventual overall

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Comments (5)


In all sense we should have

In all sense we should have been doing anything else there could be done so that would be much helpful for us. - Dennis Wong YOR Health



All that has to be done is require all sub-contractors buy a $5.00 permit to do any work in the county under the General contractors permit. The plumber, Heating & Air contractor, electrician and the lawn sprinkler contractor have to do this now. If the general contractor call in for an inspection and the paid permits are not in the computer you can't get and inspection until the sub shows his business license and pays for the permit. This is how they do it in Savannah, you have to even buy a permit to pour your concrete their. But the county does not want to stop illegal workers, they are afraid there will be no workers left and someone is getting a kickback not fixing the problem! I have been building for 31 years, find a better way and show me. We used to have these rules in place until Ron Cross got elected to his second term.


In CC its all about the money

As an industrial general contractor we will not allow any sub to work for us unless they have general liability insurance and workers comp. The GC has the responsibility of maintaining a safe work site, and anyone working on it follows OSHA safety and health standards. If you don't have insurance, your not much of a "business". Insurance is not cheap. Its hard to stay in business when all your competitors do not have insurance either. What happens when the framing starts to fail or the slab foundation cracks so hard it sounds like a tree just fell on your home? If your the builder(GC) it falls back on YOU. But your going to take that chance, since a homeowner can't sue YOU. They have to jump through hoops to follow warranty requirements, then are bound to arbitration for settling disputes. Hiring a lawyer for arbitration costs min. $15K. If your the homeowner do not go looking to CC Building Standards Dept. for help. They can show them how "builders" were pulling permits for others and where foundations were not poured to code. Where the framing is missing structural supports, but still passed by CC inspectors. YOU built it cheap and now have to buy what YOU built back. Then make the homeowner sign a confidentiality agreement not to bad mouth YOU. But he doesn't have to, because YOU have a $400K reminder of it everyday. Someone needs to hold CC's hand, show them how to grow up with some professionalism, everyone else will fall in line.


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It is a good idea. People

It is a good idea. People must collaborate only with licensed contractors if they want professional and legal services, offered at a decent price, the market price. Therefore, if someone wonders how to become a general contractor, the Builders License Training Institute offers the right services, all the legal papers and also professional training courses to become a licensed contractor.