In a joint study session with the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors and Planning & Zoning Commission Wednesday, April 3, the members agreed that Development Services should check building contractors' licenses as part of the permitting process, and asked the staff to return to a five-day-a-week schedule.
"There is a perception from the public that the issuance of a permit is an endorsement that the work complies with contractor law" and that it implies the contractor's license is in good standing is not true, Development Services Director Steve Mauk said. "We don't have anything in our codes that requires that to happen," he added.
He said the department has, in the past, unknowingly issued permits to people with suspended or revoked licenses.
The Yavapai County Contractors' Association has pushed for the department to check licenses, Mauk said.
Customers have, too. "They've said, 'You issued a permit to my contractor, only to find out my contractor's (license) was under suspension...Why did you do that?'"
The answer, Mauk said, is, "We don't trust the data on the website of the state (Registrar of Contractors)" to be up-to-date.
"As a former contractor," Supervisor Tom Thurman said, "I'm going to tell you that most of the folks that hire contractors, hopefully, do their background checks. But it's the small percentage (of contractors) out there who are there to rip people off.
"If we start checking every contractor's license number," Thurman said, "all of a sudden, we've become the policemen for the Registrar of Contractors (ROC), and then if that contractor defaults or lies or whatever, do we become part of that lawsuit?"
But Commissioner Tom Reilly said, "We've ratcheted up the regulations on building in Yavapai County - throughout the United States - to such a level that to not go through such a simple step, well, I just think it's crazy that we don't."
He also disagreed with Mauk's contention that the ROC website was not accurate.
Reilly called the issue of unlicensed contractors in the county a "huge" problem and said, "The problem is, the consumer ends up getting screwed."
Supervisor Craig Brown said he believed that checking licenses falls under the county's "responsibility for the protection of its citizens."
Mauk said his staff could write an appropriate county ordinance amendment and that it would take a minimum of 90 days to pass it.
He also told the members that there has been demand that the Development Services office reopen on Fridays. The department shortened its hours in 2010, moving to a four-day/10-hour-a-day schedule for budget reasons.
The building the department occupied at that time was "very inefficient as far as utilities were concerned," Mauk said, but since then, they've moved into a new, energy-efficient building.
"Things were slower then," he said. "We have picked up significantly," and the construction industry has been asking when they will go back to working Fridays.
"Do you show there's an increase to your budget because we're open five days?" Thurman asked.
"No," Mauk replied.
"Then there's no question for me," Thurman said.
Mauk said the department would work out the schedules and that Development Services will be open five days a week the first week of June.