Contractors renew licenses

Staff writer

Each year, the city of Hillsboro requires general contractors, plumbers, electrical, mechanical HVAC, and handy men to renew their licenses to work by Jan. 1. According to Deputy Clerk Glenda Stoppel, more than 50 professionals made the deadline for 2013, with 36 general contractors, 15 plumbers, 11 mechanical HVAC workers, 9 electricians, 1 trash collector, and 1 plumbing-backflow tester meeting renewal requirements.

While the numbers may be surprising to the average citizen, city inspector Ben Steketee said the number of licensed service workers in the area has held steady in the past five years.

“We require these licenses to ensure that our people will get quality work from someone who is up-to-date on current building and inspection codes,” Steketee said. “Those caught working in the area without a license can expect to pay a hefty fee.”

To help local contractors and service personnel stay up on code requirements, Steketee conducts a 6-credit-hour class each year in December in Hillsboro. License renewals require proof of continuing education credit hours each year.

“To get their initial license, builders, electricians, plumbers, and mechanical workers have to produce acceptable results of Prometric testing,” Steketee said. “They must also provide proof of a current liability insurance policy with a minimum amount of $500,000 coverage for each occurrence, and pay an annual fee.”

Once initial requirements are met, proof of attendance at Steketee’s or any other state-approved continuing education class is required for license renewal.

Larger contractors or supply companies in Wichita, El Dorado, or similarly larger-sized cities also offer credit classes, but Steketee said the December class in Hillsboro was the only one of its kind in Marion County.

“Each year I offer three credit hours of plumbing and three hours of mechanical,” Steketee said. “I feel pretty confident in those areas and actually enjoy looking closer into the codes.”

Codebooks were a stumbling block for several area contractors this year when Hillsboro initiated a fee-waiver incentive to those who provided proof of purchase of the current 2012 international building inspection codebooks.

“We had some confusion over the codebooks because some people didn’t understand it was only an incentive to increase the number of workers who actually had access to the codebooks,” Steketee said. “We did not require they own the books in order to renew their licenses.”

More than 15 plumbers and mechanical specialists took advantage of Steketee’s December class, but only three earned the annual fee waiver by showing proof of codebook ownership.

Still, everyone in attendance passed the class.

“My classes are not pass or fail,” Steketee said. “We sit down and go over new changes or things that are important to know for the coming year. I give a test, but the results do not really matter. The only way to fail is by not showing up.”

Steketee said the city office had a complete listing of general contractors, plumbers, electricians, and mechanical HVAC workers with current licenses for the city of Hillsboro. As city inspector, he said it was important for anyone hiring someone for service work should check for a current license, even if he or she lived in a rural area.

“We do this to make sure skills are kept up to date for the safety of the public,” he said. “It helps eliminate scammers and those who really shouldn’t be out there providing such a service anyway.”

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