TBT Opposing View: Attempting to Disband a Licensing Board Convened Under Florida Law to Protect Homeowners and Businesses

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The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board says misquoted and misstated law in several TBT articles opens a dangerous door for Pinellas County home and business owners to be unprotected, reverting the construction industry back to the stone ages of the early 70’s where ‘anything went’ – in essence removing the voice for ethical, licensed contractors.

Since 1973 citizens and businesses of Pinellas County have had a solid group of professional construction industry professionals watching their back; working to protect their homes and businesses from being taken advantage of by unlicensed or unscrupulous contractors. The work has not been easy. And it will never be finished. But the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board (PCCLB) puts its resources to work every day – and does so without costing the taxpayers a dime.

“In 1972 before the PCCLB we were competing with any unlicensed and uninsured contractor that had a pick-up truck…there was no oversight, and it wasn’t just in our field,” stated Doug Speeler Sr., Founder of Speeler Companies, a full-service Marine Contractor who has served Pinellas County for over 47 years. “It was a nightmare.”

Forty-four years ago, through a special act of the legislature, the State of Florida created an agency to “safeguard the life, health, property and public welfare of the citizens of Pinellas County” as it pertains to home improvements and the construction industry. They established the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board (PCCLB) and designated it as an agency that does not receive any revenues from the Pinellas County tax base. The revenues they receive are through fines and forfeitures that generate income for operating expenses.

The PCCLB exists to license and oversee construction contractors and proactively seek out illegal unlicensed contractors to prevent them from engaging in construction work that requires a license in Pinellas County. They have the authority to license and discipline licensed contractors and to issue citations to unlicensed contractors. They are also the governing body that is authorized to make local technical amendments to the Florida Building Code and the National Fire Protection Association Life Safety Code 101, as well as serving as the county-wide compliance review board.

  •     In the past year, the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board has investigated cases that resulted in 727 citations for violations by licensed contractors, 1,019 complaints from the public, and $922,465 in revenue from fees, fines from unlicensed and licensed contractors and citations.
  •     Over the last ten years the board’s work has produced 7,609 citations and handled 1,109 complaints from the public. The $8,861,421 in revenues generated over the last ten years was accomplished without use of tax payer dollars; in fact, every 2 years any overage not earmarked flows back to the county. That average is $100,000. All of this is in support of the taxpayers of Pinellas County and their right to hire qualified and ethical construction contractors.

“The upside to a stand-alone operation in Pinellas, is that because of the number of contractors on file, the number of permits and amount of construction work done there, the PCCLB’s ability to immediately take care of consumer complaints is vital to protecting not only the consumers, but also property…and the contractors’ needs,” stated Rhonda Koning, Owner/Director of the Contractors Institute School of Construction. The Contractors Institute is a long-time leading provider of Florida Contractor Exam Preparation, Contractor Continuing Education Classes, Online Continuing Education and Certified Training for the Construction Industry.

Consistent handling of complaints and levying of fines and citations against a contractor, who has found loopholes and weaknesses in the State and legal system, is an example of the ongoing work involved in cleaning up and maintaining a professional construction contracting industry in Pinellas County.

Case in point: You Paid For It: ‘Contractor from Hell’ gets huge break after state drags its feet, where the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board revoked Clearwater-based home remodeler Rick Metz’ license to operate in Pinellas County in 2016 after the DBPR investigation (that began in 2015) wasn’t very vigorous. 1

“The PCCLB keeps the bad guys out,” said Mike Kelly of Kelly Pools, a State-certified Commercial Pool/spa Contractor serving Tampa Bay for 44 years. “The real strength of the Board keeps contractors honest.”

The PCCLB has four full-time licensed investigators working on behalf of the safety of the homeowners and through the registration required of every licensed contractor, the board has knowledge of the over 9,500 current active contractors licensed to work in Pinellas County.

If the work of the PCCLB is shifted to the Pinellas County government or the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR), as the Tampa Bay Times is pushing for, the costs of the 1500-2000 cases per year would be pushed directly onto the taxpayers to the tune of over $2 million dollars annually. The PCCLB currently handles two-thirds of the cases for the DBPR, which would increase the already overloaded case load on the State. Current delays for hearings range from 2 months to 3 years with the DBPR as compared to the PCCLB’s appeals board which take an average of 2 weeks to schedule and grant a hearing. Put that in perspective for average Joe Homeowner or Business owner filing a complaint against an unlicensed contractor – the statute of limitations would expire in one year which could leave many high and dry on the waiting list.

“I have been teaching continuing education all over Florida since 1994, says Bob Koning, Director of the Contractors Institute School of Construction. “The PCCLB is known throughout the State of Florida for its vigorous prosecution of unlicensed contractors.”

Consistency in its mission, clarity in its intentions and hard work on the part of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board and its ten staff members have made their mark for 44 years, trying to make Pinellas County a shining example of quality workmanship in construction.

The PCCLB should be given a fair shake – and fair reporting.

About the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board (PCCLB):

The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board (PCCLB) regulates certain construction and home improvement contractors practicing in Pinellas County, including all local municipalities. In addition, the PCCLB provides countywide certification and registration of contractors and countywide certification of journeyman. The board is led by twenty-one members, each of whom is highly successful in their respective fields. The executive director, Rodney S. Fischer has over 40 years of experience in the construction industry, was a successful building contractor in Pinellas County, and served as the Executive Director of the Contractors and Builders Association for over ten years. http://www.pcclb.com

1.    Douglas, Mark. “You-paid-for-it Contractor from Hell Get a Huge Break After State Drags Its Feet.” WFLA. WFLA.com. 10 January 2017. Web.

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Karla Jo Helms
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