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Contractor ordinance talks continue

BY Carolyn Muyskens - cmuyskens@chronicle-tribune.com

After a special meeting of the Marion City Council there may be amendments coming to the proposed contractor ordinance when it comes to a vote next Tuesday.

The public hearing for the ordinance, which adds a testing requirement to the process of becoming a licensed contractor in the city, was pushed back last week after questions from council members took up two hours.

After Council member Henry Smith went back and forth with Building Commissioner Jerry Foustnight, Tye Leming of Bowman Construction and Phil Bowers of JG Bowers discussing one section of the ordinance that talks about registration for four types of work – architectural sheet metal, miscellaneous work, residential manufactured housing contractor and steel erecting – City attorney Tom Hunt told Foustnight there was a problem with the language in that part of the ordinance.

“Judge Hunt believes that that language is not written correctly. It is vague and doesn't say what it's intended to. He is going to provide some instruction for Mr. Foustnight to rewrite that in the form of an amendment and bring that to us,” Miller said.

The meeting also had to be recessed briefly 10 minutes after it began so that copies could be made for several council members who did not bring a copy of the ordinance to the meeting.

Smith asked if a contractor that specializes in one type of work, for example, drywall work, would need to pass tests covering other types of building work to receive a license.

“Since I specialize in drywall, why do I need all these other types of licenses if I'm just going to do drywall?” Smith asked.

Leming explained that the seven different licenses outlined in the ordinance cover different areas of work. The general contractor license covers both residential and commercial work, for example, while the residential contractor license only covers residential.

“It's a harder test, it's a higher standard if you will, to acquire the general contractor (license),” Leming said.

Other questions centered on the effectiveness of the ordinance.

Council member Don Batchelor asked if the Building Department will no longer go out and do inspections because the department assumes licensed contractors will follow code.

“You're wrong,” Foustnight said. The building commissioner said the department will still do inspections, although he argued the department likely won't have as many inspections to do because, the reasoning goes, if more contractors know the code, they won't have to do as many follow-up inspections to make sure code violations have been fixed.

Council member Brad Luzadder proposed that an independent board be created to handle the review and suspension of contractor licenses.

Luzadder said he was concerned because the Board of Works is appointed by the mayor and not elected.

“I would feel much more comfortable having an independent board put together,” Luzadder said. He proposed having two members appointed by the City Council and two appointed by the city administration.

Miller directed Luzadder to have Phil Stephenson, attorney for the City Council, draft an amendment regarding the creation of an independent board.

Council member Lynn Johnson asked if the city was “overreaching” in creating the ordinance.

“Are we in line and in scope with other cities that you've researched that actually put in place this ordinance?” Johnson said.

“There are cities all over that make contractors, I'll say, jump through different hoops to protect their buildings and their citizens,” Bowers said. “Plenty of tests, our guys have taken them …. a lot of other, you name it, types of registration, fees, tests."

Foustnight did not know yet how much time the city will give contractors to take the test and meet the licensing requirements, if the ordinance passes. He offered up the possibility of giving contractors six months.

The possible amendments will be discussed next Tuesday, when a public hearing will also be held on the ordinance.

All council members were present except for Council member Jim Brunner.

 

“Mr. Brunner has an IWU Taylor basketball game tonight, so I apologize, the timing wasn't good for him,” Miller said.