The licensing process for general contractors in Junction City has not been followed by many in recent years, according to city officials, who discussed efforts to address the issue Tuesday night.
The city’s Building and Codes Department was recently placed under the direction of the fire department, and fire Chief Terry Johnson spoke about building code enforcement during Tuesday’s city commission meeting. The city commission established codes in 2010, but those codes have not been followed in many cases, Johnson said.
“I’ve been in charge of the department since Feb. 4,” Johnson said. “The codes department has a lot of work to do. We have a terrible amount of work to do.”
The Insurance Service Organization rates communities for insurance policy purposes. Johnson said he did some research on the ratings other Kansas cities — comparable in size to Junction City — have through the ISO, including Dodge City, Garden City and Emporia. The research was done in order to determine how Junction City should go about getting contractors state licensed.
Manhattan requires contractors to complete 12 hours of continuing education every two years in order to be licensed, Johnson said, and he proposed that contractors working in Junction City begin following those same guidelines. The city does not currently have a continuing education program, but Johnson said he is working with Manhattan Area Technical College to establish one. The program would offer six hours of continuing education every quarter, Johnson said.
“As of the first of the year, we’ll be able to provide that,” Johnson said.
The city’s code states that contractors must be licensed by Dec. 31, however.
“I’ve had contractors coming into the office wanting their license in March and April,” Johnson said. “We can’t do that. Our code says you have to come in by Dec. 31. I have given a grace period of Dec. 31, 2019, for contractors who did not come in 2018 to renew. We are still issuing them permits. We are still allowing them to work. But those contractors failed to do their part.”
Out of the 110 contractors who work in Junction City, only 33 or 34 are licensed, Johnson said. Licenses are not transferrable among different employees within companies.
“It is issued to a person, not a company,” Johnson said. “The state is stringent on that.”
Continuing education courses would require contractors to pass tests on the knowledge taught, which can include CPR and first aid practices. Members of all trades would be required to complete them, including those working in the plumbing, electric and mechanical industries.
“If they don’t pass their test, they can retest,” Johnson said. “There are websites that offer practice tests.”
Mayor Pat Landes asked if there might be a way to speed up the process of earning continuing education credit.
“Is there a way to structure classes from now until the end of the year to get guys up to speed?” Landes asked.
Johnson said he did not know, but could discuss the issue with Manhattan Area Technical College officials.
Another issue that needs to be addressed is the lack of an active board of contractors, Johnson said. The last recorded meeting of the board was in 2010, and three members have died since then.
“The contractors board should be handling the current issue that was brought to you this evening,” Johnson said. “That’s what the contractors board is for. But it’s defunct.”
Anyone interested in serving on the contractors board can contact Johnson by calling the fire department at 785-238-6822. Several contractors attended the meeting, and Vice Mayor Jeff Underhill invited them to share any input they may have on the issue.
“A lot of people in this room can help us work this out,” Underhill said.
City officials are expected to discuss the issue in upcoming meetings, and Johnson said he would have an update in May.
“We can’t do anything about the past,” Johnson said. “We have to look to the future and see what we’re going to do to make things better. What do we need to inspect and what do we not need to?”