Contractors urge Rifle to assure quality
Citizen Telegram Editor
Open letter to City of Rifle from John Starr, owner of Colorado Maintenance Group
Re: BEST card requirement
To whom it may concern,
It has come to my attention that the City of Rifle proposes to remove the BEST card requirement for contractors within the city.
It is my opinion that this requirement not be removed for reasons following:
1) This test is an open book test, but it ensures that all persons applying for a contractors license within the city must, at the very least, be able to read and understand the current codes and where to locate these codes in the present code book.
2) The BEST card is required by other cities in the valley; by Rifle not having this test, local contractors will have to go to other cities to perform this test.
3) With this test removed, any person seeking a contractors license can acquire one without having any knowledge of current codes. This will cause more problems for our local inspectors.
4) Should the city decide to remove this test, then some other form of testing should be required to receive a license, such as a short test of common code knowledge (maybe 20-30 questions). Should an applicant fail this test, then they should be required to wait 30 days to attempt the test again. The questions on this test can be simple in nature and can be drawn by our local inspector. This, at the very least, ensures the applicant has common knowledge of construction.
I hope that you take these suggestions into consideration before making your decision.
Thank you for your time.
John F. Starr
Local contractor and owner of CMG
Instead of fewer regulations, some Rifle contractors told City Council they wanted to see a test – designed to ensure they were qualified – continue to be required.
However, the council voted 4-2, with Councilman Jonathan Rice absent on April 16, to discontinue a requirement that contractors pass the Board of Examiners for Standardized Testing, or BEST, test in order to receive a contractor’s license.
The vote gave final approval to an ordinance that found the test to be “more burdensome on potential licensees and development within the city compared to the benefit the city receives.”
The test is an “open book” test on building codes and methods. In a memo to the council, Planning Director Nathan Lindquist pointed out that other municipalities that eliminated the test had not encountered problems.
“Nor do they believe there to be a correlation between contractor quality and ability to pass the test,” Lindquist wrote. “It is common practice for a senior member of a contractor’s firm to take the test, but then be completely absent from the construction site.”
Lindquist wrote that requiring the test gives the public the idea that the city is guaranteeing contractor quality, which an open book text cannot do. He also noted removal of the requirement will save time for both staff and the building community, helping to reduce wait times for building permits.
In place of the testing, Lindquist suggested a provision that gives the building official discretion to ask for references, if there is a clear reason, before issuing the license.
John Starr with Colorado Maintenance Group, Scott Robertson, Greg Mullenax with Mullenax Roofing and Larry Gray with G&R Construction all spoke against the change and for the BEST test.
“I think this would be a disservice to Rifle,” Starr said. “You’ll have anyone who can swing a hammer come in and pay the $100 fee for a contractor license.”
In a letter to the council (see box above), Starr wrote that someone applying for a contractors license in Rifle must, “at the very least, be able to read and understand the current codes and where to locate these codes in the present code book.”
Robertson said without the test, he could have his girlfriend go to City Hall and get a permit.
Starr suggested the city building inspector could come up with a short test on the basics of the building code and other suitable subjects to help maintain some control over the quality of contractor’s work.
“You want to have some form of reassurance that someone is not just working out of their truck at Lion’s Pond,” he said.
Mullenax said “the more hoops you ask contractors to jump through will weed out the people that don’t have any business being in this business.”
“One thing the test does now is remind you what you need to brush up on, if you have a question that makes you look something up,” he added.
Councilman Hans Parkinson seemed to agree with the contractors who spoke.
“I know I want someone with knowledge about the local code to build my home,” he said. “I think the citizens need some form of protection.”
But Councilman Jay Miller said he thought the BEST test “only shows someone can look up the answers.”
Lindquist noted eliminating the test was also part of a broader effort by the current council and city staff to make permitting processes simpler and faster for builders.
“We still can deny a license and weed out the bad actors,” he added.
Gray said less trustworthy contractors could get around the city’s reference requirement by using a relative or a friend.
“Or they can just fake the references,” he added. “Part of the BEST test is to prove you can figure out how to do things right. Without the test, you’re leaning on your building inspector a lot more.”
After listening to the comments, Councilman Rich Carter wondered if a larger debate over the issues was warranted.
“We have these legitimate contractors with these concerns,” he said. “I’m kind of shocked this debate is even happening, but maybe we need to take a closer look at this.”
Mayor Randy Winkler and City Attorney Jim Neu both said the issue can be brought back to the council, if problems arise.
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