The Grand County Board of Commissioners voted not to adopt a new county contractor licensing policy.
The commissioners voted unanimously not to advance with a recommendation from the Grand County Building Department that would have eliminated the county’s policy of checking contractor’s insurance and instead placed the burden on homeowners.
Rather, representatives from the Grand County Builder’s Association will work with local entities and the county to overhaul the county’s current policy.
The new proposal would have had homeowners sign an affidavit stating that they understand the risk of hiring uninsured contractors and subcontractors. It also would have eliminated fees associated with licensing.
“It makes the permit holder a little more responsible and involved in this whole process,” said Peter Rempel, the county building official. “It gives them some responsibility that they should have anyway as property owners.”
Rempel argued that the process of keeping track of contractors and their insurance was too burdensome for the county’s building department.
Problems arise when homeowners hire new contractors or subcontractors during the building process, thus invalidating what the building department has on file. The building department doesn’t have the resources to send inspectors out to each site to ensure that all contractors and subcontractors are insured.
However, representatives from the Grand County Builders Association argued that most homeowners aren’t savvy enough to vet contractors and subcontractors for the proper insurance, and that many could end up with uninsured or underinsured contractors.
“The intent of the original program was to provide some protection and establish a level playing field in the building community,” said Steve Jensen of Mountain Top Builders, citing the current policy of requiring that contractors and subcontractors have verified insurance.
“It’s an impact to our industry to allow this to become unregulated,” Jensen said, “that legitimate contractors are facing competition from people who may or may not have insurance.”
Jeff Johnson, president of The Roofing Company, said that designers only want to work with insured contractors.
“The design community wants to work with professionals,” Johnson said. “Their fees are more when they’re uncomfortable with working with their contractors.”
No room for the little guy
During the discussion, county commissioners raised the issue that smaller builders and handymen had complained that the current process was too difficult for smaller businesses.
But Troy Neilberger of Big Valley Construction countered that the handymen had not made an effort to be part of the conversation.
“My point is, where is that little guy at?,” Neilberger said. “Ten years ago we heard about it. Today we heard about it, and they’re not here today.”
Commissioner James Newberry also raised concerns that keeping track of insurance falls outside the responsibility of county building officials.
“I don’t know that our building department people, that that’s their area of expertise,” Newberry said. “That’s not what they were trained in and so that’s a disconnect also.”
However, builders and county officials agreed to reconvene at a later date to revisit the current process in order to make it less time consuming for the building department while retaining the licensure for contractors and subcontractors in the county.
Commissioners said they hope to have a new policy in place by the end of the year.
Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.