Complaints about trade contractors using unlicensed labor at construction sites in Columbia County hit a peak about four months ago but have diminished, according to county officials.
"I think the reason it's calmed down is because the state is doing their thing," said Richard Harmon, the county's Development Services director. "I think that's a good sign that maybe it's changing."
The problem arises after a subcontractor, who is hired by a trade contractor, applies for a business license, or occupational tax, in the county without having a state license, Harmon said.
If work ensues, a contractor can face a fine and have their license revoked, he said.
Harmon said the state's Professional Licensing Boards Division might be investigating major trade contractors in the county for violations, but no such company has been penalized.
A representative from the division's press office said he is not allowed to disclose or confirm information regarding an investigation.
"The problem with this whole thing, every bit of it, is the state, nor do we, have enough people to police it," Harmon said.
Others in the industry are familiar with the issue.
"I hear about it all the time," said Stan Sherman, the owner of Sherman Plumbing. "That's our competitors -- the guys who don't have a license. They're going to underbid you."
Sherman is more involved in the service side of plumbing, but said the problem does exist.
"Whatever kind of trade you do, if you're in that kind of business where there's building going on, you're always going to see shady stuff," he said.
Both Sherman and Wayne Frazier, the owner of Frazier Heating and Air, said the problem isn't new.
"I doubt they'll ever get everybody from being unlicensed. You're always going to have somebody try to get away with it," Frazier said.
He said that in the past he's had to finish and correct the work done by the unlicensed.
The same standards should apply to everyone in the trade industry, Harmon said.
"I think most, if not all, of our contractors expect everyone to play by the same rules that they have to play by, and I 100 percent agree with them on that," he said.
In January the problem should be resolved, Harmon added.
New federal guidelines mean the county will handle the business licence ordinance by conducting background checks on business owners through a Web site, he said.
"The county has to pay $25 per month for a Web site ... and 50 cents for each inquiry checking backgrounds on anybody," he said. "If you don't come up as a legal person, you don't get a license."
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