Putnam County Legislature Moves to Revise Contractor Laws

Sheriff’s Nelsonville substation to get new doors

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

The Putnam County Legislature Tuesday night (Sept. 3) pushed forward on the task of updating and streamlining laws governing building-trades contractors, a project that so far has taken three years.

By twin 8-0 votes, with one member absent, the legislators agreed to remove the $25,000 bond requirement for those engaged in lawn mowing, leaf-blowing, and ground maintenance and spared novice “helpers” in the plumbing and mechanical trades from registration and related requirements applicable to more seasoned journeymen and to master plumbers and licensed tradespersons. Both changes in law took effect immediately.

Previously, the county code forced lawn-mower operators, like others in the home improvement business, to obtain a “surety license and permit bond in the amount of $25,000.” It did not apply to teens who cut neighbors’ grass, but otherwise affected small-scale mowing operations. Another contractor-related law demanded registration of helpers – those “learning the plumbing or related trade” as well as “any person working on a job site” who is not a master plumber or journeyman.

Legislature Chairman Richard Othmer, a mason and contractor, said that he has sought to rid the code of unnecessary, confusing or inconsistent provisions. “If we were challenged legally, we’d not be able to defend ourselves,” he said.

Furthermore, Othmer continued, study of the code revealed “there were certain things that inhibited the construction business in Putnam County. It got to the point in this county where we needed to be licensed to do everything.”

He cited his business as an example. In Dutchess County, a quarter mile from his home in Kent, “I don’t even need a license. I can build your house; I can build your foundation; I can do a chimney,” he said. But in Putnam, a contractor often faces requirements or costs for something simple like hiring a college kid or soldier on leave to handle a wheelbarrow or shovel in a temporary job. “It’s another hindrance,” he said.

Legislators observed that various skilled trades involve detailed training systems, with stages – including helper roles, in some cases – in which hours spent learning are well documented, but that these practices aren’t found in all trades or among many non-union personnel.

Othmer said the county’s Plumbing and Mechanical Trades Board wanted to dispense with the registration rules on helpers, but that the comparable board overseeing electrical contractors chose to keep the “helper” requirements for their field.

  “Contractors needed a little bit more flexibility, so we have amended the law to take out the ‘helpers’ [provisions] where applicable,” said District 4 Legislator Ginny Nacerino, who as a member of the Rules, Enactments, and Intergovernmental Relations Committee spearheaded the changes.

In other business

On an 8-0 vote, the legislators signed off on using $4,690 for the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department “to purchase overhead doors for the Nelsonville substation.” According to Undersheriff Peter Convery, the upgrade “is necessary for proper security” at the site. With the money available in a related fund, the allocation has zero fiscal impact, according to the county Department of Finance.

The Legislature also approved a continuation of the agreement with the New York State Department of Transportation for the county role in clearing snow and ice from state roads, with a bonus – $154,608 more in reimbursements “based on revised expenditures to more accurately reflect the season” and “additional lane miles of state roads plowed” by the county last winter.

Initially adopted in 2009, the agreement was subsequently extended through June 2014 and involves a total of $818,159. The county proposes to spend $132,000 of the bonus on vehicles and $22,608 on other equipment.

One thought on “Putnam County Legislature Moves to Revise Contractor Laws

  1. I just spoke with the Putnam County Home Improvement board. I was advised that they are still requiring the $25,000 Bond. They advised that the law has not gone into effect. At this time they will not renew license without the required bond in effect.