News in brief

Construction Wage, Fringe Rates Stay Steady

Construction wage and fringe rates in settlements for 1998 increased 3.2 percent — the same rate as 1997, according to the Construction Labor Research Council (CLRC). Multi-year pacts in 1998 also set a moderate course, with a 3.2 percent average increase in 1999 and a 3.5 percent increase in 2000.

The five-year trend also continued moderate, with the all-trades rate at 15.7 percent. The five-year trend for pipefitters and plumbers experienced moderate growth similar to the all-trades rate.

Agreement Reached For Plumbing Codes

The Western Fire Chiefs Association (WFCA) and the International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) have reached an agreement to work together in the year 2000 edition of the Uniform Fire, Plumbing & Mechanical Codes. Under the agreement, the Uniform Fire Code 2000, the Uniform Plumbing Code 2000 and the Uniform Mechanical Code 2000 will be licensed to contain cross-references and code duplications that ensure consistency and ease of application of related provisions. A Code Correlation Com-mittee has been authorized to provide cross-representation at each group’s code deliberations.

California Bill Would Require Completion Notice

California’s legislature is considering a bill (A.B. 171) that would require both public and private project owners to provide notice of completion. Under the bill’s provisions, owners would have to notify, by certified mail, all contractors and other claimants who have properly filed their preliminary 20-day notice that a notice of completion or notice of cessation has been recorded. Notice would be sent within five days or recordation.

N.Y. Governor Vetoes ‘No Damage For Delay’ Bill

New York Gov. George Pataki (R) vetoed a “no damage for delay” bill that passed the New York legislature last fall. The legislation would have required public im-provement contracts to contain a clause permitting contractors to recover the costs for an excusable delay. Contractors now must prove owners’ negligence to collect delay damages.

Montana Retainage Bill Under Scrutiny

A Montana bill would require retainage on public and private construction projects to be placed in an interest-bearing account. The bill would allow general contractors to collect on the interest, but it does not address subcontractors’ collection of interest.

Virginia Pay-If-Paid Bill Fails In Committee

A bill that would have limited the use of pay-if-paid clauses in Virginia was defeated in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee in February. Republican Sen. Bill Mims introduced S.B. 1298, which would have prohibited the use of pay-if-paid clauses as a defense to lien or bond claim and required the disclosure of owner financing for construction projects to general contractors and subcontractors when requested by the general contractor. It would have set limits on contracts that include pay-when-paid clauses, ensuring that the date of payment to the subcontractor did not exceed 180 days from the date the subcontractor completed its work or the date payment otherwise would have been due.

Colorado Legislature Revisits Fair Competition Bill

Colorado may extend its coverage regarding fair competition laws. Senate Bill 99-207 expands existing fair competition laws by authorizing the Colorado Public Service Commission to adopt detailed standards of conduct that will govern utility affiliate transactions.

Iowa Tackles Utility Deregulation

Iowa is exploring new utility deregulation legislation with HSB 218. This bill contains many positive fair competition provisions. The unique feature of HSB 218 is that the enforcement section ties violations and penalties to the ability of the utility to hold the necessary permits and licenses if they violate the law. The bill also prohibits joint marketing efforts between a utility and its affiliate.

Rather than applying the fair competition provisions to all competitive products and services a utility or its affiliate may offer, the bill specifically lists and defines what services and areas these provisions cover.

Groups Seek Miller Act Revisions

The Associated General Con-tractors of America (AGC) and 22 construction and surety trade associations signed a Memor-andum of Understanding in March to increase bond protection under the Miller Act. In addition to the increase in the payment of bond amount, the groups reached agreement on two other provisions. Delivery of notice for nonpayment can now be sent by “any means which provides written, third-party verification of delivery.” Also, a contract cannot require a waiver of payment rights before work has begun.

Federal Utility Deregulation Legislation Moves Forward

During hearings March 18, members of the House Subcom-mittee on Energy and Power, former executive branch officials and state public utility commissioners agreed that comprehensive federal utility deregulation legislation is necessary. Additional hearings to discuss a utility restructuring time-table, repeal of the Public Utility Holding Company Act and how to address market power will be held.

Trade groups would like to bar cross-subsidies from utilities to non-regulated affiliates.

Labor Department Seeks Funds For WIA

The Department of Labor has requested $149 million to continue to expand implementation of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), which consolidates many fragmented job-training programs into a single job training delivery system on a state-by-state basis.

‘Trust Fund’ Legislation May Ensure Payment

The Pennsylvania legislature is considering “trust fund” legislation. If enacted, the Construction Pay-ment Protection Act would ensure that funds received by owners, developers or contractors reach their ultimate destinations: those companies, including subcontractors, that have fulfilled their obligations pursuant to an executed contract.

Plumbers Licensing Act Under Attack

The Tennessee General Assembly is considering a bill called the “Plumbers Licensing Act” that would impose job classifications, licensing, rules and regulations on all plumbing companies and plumbing workers. The Coalition to Protect Our Right to Work Laws, composed of 11 statewide construction and business associations, is leading the opposition to the act, Senate Bill 1646 and House Bill 1605.

School Boards Support Davis-Bacon

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is endorsing Davis-Bacon prevailing wage re-quirements for federally-funded school construction. The Senate Republican budget resolution proposed savings through repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act.

Moen Prevails In Patent Lawsuit

A federal court has ruled that Foremost Trading Co. may not make, use, sell or import faucets that infringe the design patent for Moen Inc.’s Monticello® brand two-handle 4-inch centerset lavatory faucet. The court found that Foremost’s faucet ornamental design was substantially the same as Moen’s. The summary judgment was granted March 4. Moen has agreed to waive damages and drop additional claims against foremost for trade dress and patent infringement.

Building One Acquires Seven Companies

Building One Services Corp. (NASDAQ:BOSS) announced it acquired seven companies in late March with annualized revenues of $180 million. It bought the companies for $47 million in cash and $18 million in stock.

Service Experts Acquires 31 Companies

Service Experts Inc. (NYSE: SVE) announced it has completed the acquisition of 31 companies with annualized revenues of $48.8 million. The acquisitions include 12 new service centers and 19 “tuck-in” companies. Service Experts owns 116 companies in 36 states.

Watts Acquires Italian Plumbing Firm

Watts Industries Inc. (NYSE: WTS) has acquired Cazzaniga S.p.A., located in Biassono, Italy. Cazzaniga is an integrated manufacturer of plumbing and heating products, including water distribution manifolds, zone valves, radiator air-purge valves and thermostatic radiator valves. The company, which employs 185 people, had recent annual sales of $35 million.

Air Products/Kinetics To Form Company

The Kinetics Group Inc., a subsidiary of United States Filter Corp. (NYSE: USF), and Air Products and Chemicals Inc. (NYSE: APD) have formed a 50/50 semiconductor joint venture company. The new company, Trimega, will be a single source provider focused on delivering a complete range of low-cost and high quality fab materials, process systems, facility operations and environmental and safety solutions for the global semiconductor industry.

U.S. Filter, Envirogen Extend Biofiltration Venture

United States Filter Corp. (NYSE: USF) and Envirogen Inc. (NASDAQ: ENVG) have extended their partnership in the biofilters market. The continuing partnership results from market demand for biofilters in the municipal and industrial wastewater treatment industries. U.S. Filter began its partnership with Envirogen three years ago to augment its wastewater treatment services with biofilters.

Heating Edge Baseboard Wins Inventor Award

The Heating Edge, a one-piece all-aluminum baseboard, won an award at the Yankee Inventors’ Exposition in Waterbury, Conn. The Heating Baseboard, a Mass-achusetts-based company, developed the baseboard.

Plumber Runs The Bases At New Baseball Field

A plumber was fired from his job at the Seattle Mariners’ new ballpark after he got his first “hit” in the stadium. Nolan West had just finished his workday install-ing pipes to carry beer to concession stands at Safeco Field when he grabbed a bat and headed for the field. He had a friend videotape him as he tossed a ball in the air, hit it and ran around the bases, sliding head-first into home plate without losing his hard hat. His employers, not amused, fired West two days short of finishing the $30-an-hour, 10-day job. West said it was worth it.

QSC Meeting XI Focuses On Business Succession

“Business in Transition … Falling Through the Generation Gaps” will headline the Quality Service Contractors’ June 4-5 meeting in Cleveland. QSC’s two-day educational sessions are aimed at the business owner and general manager. Other sessions include Mike Henning’s “Someday, Son all This Will Belong To … Who?,” which addresses successful family business practices; Kevin Dougherty will present “Customer Relations Training”; Frank Blau expands his “Ultimate Profit and Loss State-ment,” exploring how one can produce the solid financial management necessary to prosper; and Robert Wendover will talk about motivating people in his session, “Turning People Into Profits.” The sessions are open to non-QSC members at an introductory rate. Call 800/533-7694.

Utica Boilers Opens Training Center

Utica Boilers has opened a training center, which will serve as a classroom and conference center. The company will offer classes and seminars highlighting topics such as industry trends, equipment installation and maintenance, and new product technology for installers and contractors. For more information, call 315/797-1310.

NOSHM Convention In Penn.

The 1999 National Oil Heat-ing Service Managers’ Conven-tion and Trade Show will be May 23-27 in Hershey, Penn. More than 300 exhibitors will display oil heating products, supplies and accessories.

For more information, call 888/552-0900.