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Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Celina councilors disagree on fee

Proposed ordinance would require contractors working in the city to pay

By William Kincaid
CELINA - Several city council members have problems with a proposed ordinance that would require contractors working within the city to register and pay a $10 fee.
Concerns about infringing on an owner's right to hire whomever he or she wants and unintentionally discouraging volunteer organizations from pursuing community improvements were expressed on Monday night at a committee meeting held before the regular council meeting.
After listening to their concerns, Celina Safety Service Director Tom Hitchcock asked council members if they wanted him to continue to work on the policy.
Councilman Mike Sovinski told him to proceed, pointing out the issue has been talked about for 20 to 30 years.
"It's always going to come back up," Sovinski said.
The proposed policy says contractors - any person, firm or corporation who enters into a written or oral contract or agreement as a primary or general contractor to supply goods, services and/or labor - must apply with the city and pay $10 to register and $10 to renew registration every year.
Registration only would be required when the agreement is for services, materials and equipment valued over $500 annually.
Contractors also would have to submit a federal tax identification number, proof of comprehensive general liability insurance coverage, proof of a current Ohio Worker's Compensation certificate when required by Ohio law and proof of compliance with state or federal licensing requirements.
Residents personally working on their own property and those younger than 18 who are casually employed by a property owner for such work as mowing or snow removal would not have to register.
The surrounding communities of St. Marys, Wapakoneta, Van Wert, Delphos, Greenville and Sidney all require registration of residential contractors, Hitchcock said. Annual fees range from $10 to $175.
Councilman Bill Sell questioned how easy it would be to keep track of contractors working in the city. Hitchcock said the city would not have somebody available to visit every work site.
"At least there's a tracking system established," Sovinski said of requiring registration.
The system also could be a public service; people could request the list of registered contractors, Hitchcock said.
Councilman June Scott said he has mixed feelings about the policy, questioning if it's just another way of getting the government involved in people's lives. He worries it would preclude people from hiring whom they want for a job.
"It's a $10 fee," Hitchcock said. "It's more about tracking them than it is about making money for the city."
Sell also asked why the city should care if a property owner wants to take a risk with a contractor, a practice known as buyer beware.
Council members Myron Buxton, Jason King and Angie King all had concerns about volunteer groups working in the community.
"That's the reason we kept it (fee) low," Hitchcock said.
He told council they could add a section that exempts certain groups from registration.
Craig Riesen of Riesen Plumbing & Heating, Celina, said registration would help people get good, quality work. He pointed out the dangers of hiring a contractor with no liability insurance.
"This is something Celina needs," Rod Hirschfeld of Hirschfeld Construction, LLC, Celina, said. "You need a way to track your revenue."
He said council members were nitpicking and missing the big picture.
"This is just a general liability thing," Hirschfeld said. "What you're requiring here is very minimal stuff. It's not going to hurt anybody - even the small guy can (afford) this."
Sell said he doesn't think a group of retired contractors should be required to have insurance if they were putting up a handicap ramp.
Hirschfeld disagreed, asking Sell who would be liable in such a situation.
Angie King - who removed herself from the council table to avoid a potential conflict of interest due to her work as a Realtor, her investment in rental properties and her husband Mark King's owning King Construction - addressed council from the audience.
People should be allowed to hire whomever they want, she said. Registration wouldn't protect homeowners because contractors could skirt city rules until caught, she said.
If enacted, the policy would negatively impact her and the work she does, King said, adding she pays taxes and should be able to hire whomever she wants.
"They're my properties, my investments," she said.
Some of the policy's language is vague and ambiguous, she said, a comment Sovinski agreed with.
Hitchcock told council members they have time to get the language right as any related legislation likely wouldn't go into effect until Jan. 1.
City officials will continue to tweak the language, including the definition of contractor.
Additional online story on this date
Former Auglaize County Sheriff Larry Longsworth lost his battle with cancer Monday afternoon at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. He was 62. [More]
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