Contractors must soon be licensed
By Carol McLeod
The state of Georgia has mandated that general contractors will have to pass a test and become licensed in order to conduct business.
Some time had been given to allow for contractors to become grandfathered and bypass this requirement, but that window of opportunity, as Gregori Anderson refers to it, has passed.
Not only is Anderson the director of the department of building safety and regulatory service for Chatham County, but he is also a board member of the International Code Council Board of Directors, a member of the Building Officials Association of Georgia and a past chairman of the State Codes Advisory Committee of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, or DCA, which is the state agency that adopts the codes for the state of Georgia.
In these capacities, he is considered by some to be the go-to guy with regards to this new requirement.
According to Anderson, Georgia is the last state in the southeast to implement a licensing requirement for general contractors.
“There’s been a lot of discussion for a number of years,” he said. “The catalyst was the homebuilders association, to benefit consumers and their industry.”
The Georgia Secretary of State created a licensing board and Gov. Sonny Perdue appointed 15 members.
“They did two things, which is the same thing they did when they licensed plumbers, electricians and heating and air conditioning contractors. And that is to put in a test. Within a certain time frame they gave contractors an opportunity to seek an exemption from the test or what some people call a grandfathering clause,” Anderson said, adding the time frame during which a contractor could request an exemption has passed.
According to the Secretary of State’s press office, 17,593 applications for the exemption were received by the examining board. Of those, 11,340 exemptions were issued.
“We are still working with some denied applications,” a spokesman said.
There have been 1,360 applicants to take the exam. Of those, 997 have been approved, according to the spokesman.
“Three hundred and sixty-three were deficient and we’re working with those,” he said.
Individuals who did not receive an exemption and those who are beginning a contracting business for the first time have to take the test, according to Anderson.
“Once you pass the test, there are other requirements that you have to have to be licensed by the state,” he said.
Those requirements include liability insurance and a letter of credit from a bank. The amount of insurance and credit vary depending on the category of work.
According to Georgia’s Secretary of State’s website, only the general contractor license requires a minimum net worth. A general contractor must have a minimum net worth of $150,000 and a line of credit of at least $50,000.
Applicants must also show proof of workers compensation insurance and general liability insurance of $300,000 for the residential-basic category, $500,000 for the residential-light commercial category and $500,000 for the general contractor category.
“There’s also a provision that requires continuing education,” Anderson said. “Just like the other (licensees), you’re required to have six hours over a two year period of continuing education. That becomes a requirement for renewal.”
Anderson said renewal will be required every two years.
“There is what’s called the handyman clause in the license and $2,500 is the threshold. You’re not required to be licensed for certain types of things, anything that is considered repair work, anything that is $2,500 in construction value or less, and some work that does not require a building permit may not require the person to be licensed,” Anderson said.
A statute in the law allows a person who owns a home and lives in it to do any construction work on that home without a license, he said, adding that the homeowner must live in the home to qualify.
“The general contractor who’s responsible for coordinating the other trades is required to have a higher level of understanding, a higher level of proficiency and takes on a higher level of risk. And the licensing program acknowledges this. He’s going to have to elevate his game,” he said.
Anderson acknowledged there are some contractors who will be unable to meet some of the requirements for a state license, but said those people would still be able to work as artisans and practice a trade.
“We’re talking safety and we’re talking about liability. So you don’t want anybody out there without liability. That’s been one of the arguments for licensing. It adds some legitimacy to the contracting profession,” he said.
For those people unable to obtain a license and who were not grandfathered, Anderson suggests they can work for a general contractor who has a license or work in a trade that does not require a state license, such as masonry.
“You are going to be unable to get a building permit if you do not have a license,” he said. “After July 1, building permits will not be issued to anyone who is not a licensed contractor or a homeowner who lives in the home and is doing the work himself.”
Jefferson County’s building inspector, Paul Ledger, said additionally contractors will have to be bonded.
“Any work over $2,500 will have to have a permit. Any contractors with permits that have already been issued will be allowed to finish that work,” he said. “It’s going to put a hardship on handymen because they’re not going to be allowed to do the work unless they have a license.”
Ledger pointed out there are few jobs that cost less than $2,500, the threshold for the license requirement.
“If we issue permits to anyone who isn’t licensed, we face being fined by the state, a minimum of $500,” Ledger said.
“It’s going to create hardships,” he said of the license requirement. “A lot of folks have been doing this their whole lives. They don’t have a lot of net worth but still they’ve got the ability to do the work. That’s something they are going to have to take up with their elected officials.”
One of those officials has already started addressing this issue.
Jefferson County Commissioner Johnny Davis said the license requirement will put people at a disadvantage.
“They possess the necessary skills but may not have the education to fully understand the test,” he said.
Davis said the state doesn’t need to be stringent.
“I’m for the requirements,” he said, adding contractors should be accountable when they take somebody’s money and their credibility should be checked.
Jefferson County Administrator Paul Bryan placed an advertisement in local media to help the public become aware of this new law.
“I have submitted this to the paper so the public is aware of the requirement changes for construction work within the county. Hopefully, this will give the necessary information to our contractors in the county regarding the license requirement,” he said.
One local contractor who has taken the test and has his state license is Burles "B.A." Johnson. His company is the one performing current restoration work on the county’s courthouse.
“If you’re doing any type of maintenance around your home, from painting to repairing rotten window seals, fascia, soffit, it’s going to cost you more than $2,500,” he said.
“The state is requiring contractors to have a net worth of $150,000. There are contractors all over the state who do not have that kind of money, but they do a good job. What is going to happen to them? They are not going to be able to get a license. I think if you’re an honest person, you ought to have the same opportunity to work as the big guys,” Johnson said.
“There are contractors who have been doing work, who have been doing a quality job. If they had not been doing a quality job, it should have been noted on a county level,” he said. “There may be some counties within the state who need more structure in the way contractors do business, but that should be done on the county level, not by the state.”
As of Tuesday, June 3, there were 18 names listed as state licensed for Jefferson County. Of those, only nine were residents of the county. Others with licenses are listed as being from Alabama or Florida. In Glascock County, there are only two, both of whom are listed as Glascock County residents.
Man wanted in Louisville shooting
By Carol McLeod
Two men were fired upon Tuesday, May 27, at approximately 3:30 a.m., according to Louisville Chief of Police Jimmy Miller.
“Two guys were supposedly walking down Martin Luther King Boulevard in the direction of Hwy 24. They came down Martin Luther King and they heard somebody say something behind them,” Miller said.
The men turned around, heard a gun clicking and took off running, according to the chief.
“One of the guys was hit twice, once in the left shoulder and once in the left middle finger,” Miller said. “Multiple shots were fired.”
The chief added that a car, parked in front of a residence, was struck by one of the rounds, breaking the back door glass.
“The victim was Edward Tremble Jr., 21, of Louisville,” Miller said. “We’re still following leads on this. We’re being assisted in this by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.”
Miller said the victim was transported by Rural Metro to Jefferson Hospital’s emergency room where he was transferred to the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. He has since been released, Miller said.
Anyone with information regarding this shooting is asked to contact the Louisville Police Department or the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
Buzzard Blast lands in Louisville
By Faye Ellison
For the second year in a row, Louisville will celebrate its community at its Buzzard Blast this Saturday, June 7, at Helen Clark Memorial Park beginning at 9 a.m.
With food, arts and crafts, music and games, the Buzzard Blast is returning this year to help raise money for the Louisville business façade program.
“We are going to have live entertainment this year throughout the day on the stage at the park,” said event coordinator Lil Easterlin. “The local band Velocity will play at the end of the day and Josh Gay, who plays contemporary Christian music, will sing during the day.
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“I really think the stage in the park is a cool idea. People can bring blankets or lawn chairs to sit while they watch.”
Other entertainment includes Father Ambrosio Brylinski with a puppet show and the Raptor Show from Statesboro. The Raptor Show, which is sponsored by the Jefferson County Commissioners, made the trip to be a part of the Buzzard Blast last year, but because of inclement weather was not able to perform. Easterlin said the birds will be able to fly around in the park and the trainer Steve Heim will inform the public about them.
The stage schedule is music from 9-10 a.m. and at noon-12:45 p.m., the Raptor Show at 10:15-11:15 a.m. and at 2-3 p.m., the puppet musical at 11:30 a.m.-noon, Josh Gay will perform 12:45-1:45 p.m. and Velocity will perform from 3:15-4 p.m. Throughout the day prizes from local businesses will be given away including John Deere hats, gas cards, golf tees and more. At 3 p.m. there will be a grand prize drawing of a 15-inch flat screen LCD television.
“We have some really supportive local businesses that gave us prizes to give away,” Easterlin said. “When people buy a ticket to enter the park, they will be given a free raffle ticket. We will announce what we are giving away and announce the number and have a place to pick it up. This is new and exciting for us.”
Also returning is the popular dunk tank which will feature people from the community. Buzzard Blast T-shirts will be on sale for $15 for adults, $13 for youths and shirts from last year will be on sale for $1 at the festival. This year’s shirts can be purchased in advance at The Bookworm, Randi’s Flowers, Gifts, Interiors, The Bistro, Joy’s Décor and More, Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and The News and Farmer/The Jefferson Reporter.
There will be food and arts and crafts vendors in the park area and a children’s area on the Louisville Academy football field with activities like bungee run, pony rides and bucket truck rides, which can be played with tickets purchased on the field.
Tickets to enter the Buzzard Blast will $2 for a wrist band and children 10 and under get in free.
This year the festival will also have a shuttle service to take festival goers from the park, to downtown to the Louisville Baptist Church parking lot where there will be extra parking.
“We will pick people up where we have a little sign that says Buzzard Blast Shuttle,” Easterlin said. “It’s great because they can go downtown and see the Streetscape project and enjoy the shops.”
Other parking places include spaces on Ninth Street and Academy Drive and on Peachtree Street between Jefferson Hospital and the Board of Education. The BOE parking lot will be closed for vendor parking.
“It’s gonna’ be a great time in Louisville with the Buzzard Blast this year.”