Happy New Year! I hope all of you are as thrilled as I am to be getting a fresh start this year. This time of year is always exciting because the year ahead is filled with possibilities and opportunities. Be sure to head over to Page 54 to find out more about what the coming year will bring from some well-known industry experts. 

In this column, I’d like to address an issue I’ve been hearing from several contractors all across the U.S., and that’s about licensure requirements. Some cities and states have been exploring laws and ordinances that would allow utility and excavation contractors to install private sewers and water services for commercial and industrial construction. Understandably, this is alarming for some plumbing contractors in these locations. 

However, Charles "Chip" Greene, president, of Greene & Associates in Macon, Georgia, says this has been the case in Georgia for more than 15 years.  

“Here in Georgia, utility contractors can run water and sewer to within 5 feet of building,” he says. “But in return, a plumbing contractor can run water and sewer from 5 feet out to right of way. Years ago, utility contractors wanted to be licensed and asked for our support —we said sure, but with the caveat that plumbing contractors can do the same thing. Just like anything else, it’s all about compromise. We worked together to come up with something agreeable to both parties, and that’s the key. We all need each other.”

Greene notes that utility work is not necessarily in a typical plumber’s wheelhouse, so it hasn’t been a problem for his company, which does plumbing, HVAC and medical gas work in K-12, higher education, medical, institutional and commercial markets.   

“The demarcation line is 5 feet outside of the building,” he says. “We have a responsibility from that point to back inside of the building, then the utility contractor takes over from that point to the municipality utility lines. Running a water or sewer line for a house or small commercial facility from the building to the street is not as big of a deal, and most utility contractors are not going to be doing a lot of that — they’re more interested in the larger projects. 

“Our system works well,” Greene adds. “Our general contractor clients will issue a bid package for site work and plumbing, so if the plumber doesn’t do site work, it won’t lock him out of the job. Now, a plumber can bid the site work if he wants to, but there’s not penalty to the plumber from a competition aspect. That type of work is completely different — it requires employees with different skillsets and expertise, and additional equipment capable of larger scale work.”

If your geographical area is experiencing this problem for the first time, make sure to contact your local or state government officials and explain your case. Also, look into joining your local contractor organization chapters. Associations such as PHCC and MCAA have legal experts available to contractor members to help them fight new laws like this one and give legal advice. Or, perhaps it’s time to meet with the local utility contractors and work out a solution that works for everyone.