County enacts new licensing requirement for contractors

Aiming to ensure accountability, liability insurance and quality 

[  By Katherine Nettles  ]

Building contractors located within Gunnison County now have until February 1, 2023 to attain a new license required to practice within the unincorporated areas of the county and obtain a building permit from the county building department. The license will require an application, a one-time open-book test on international building codes, processing fee and maintaining minimum liability insurance. The efforts to enact the new licensing requirements resumed in 2021 after a delay due to COVID, and county commissioners held a public hearing on January 18 before voting unanimously in favor of the proposal. 

Contractors were given more than a year to attain the new license, and licenses will be effective for 36 months from the date they are issued. The test only has to be taken once, according to the building department, and certifications can then be renewed every three years.

Property owners acting as their own contractors on their own property (not exceeding once in four years), laborers working under a building contractor and property management employees or state licensed workers, such as plumbers and electricians, are exempt from obtaining a license.

The idea of licensing requirements first began in 2019 after various county-hosted stakeholder meetings with the local building community. Then the Gunnison County planning commission held work sessions and a public hearing in 2019 before the COVID emergency response interrupted the process. 

The new code, as written by county staff and presented by community and economic development director Cathie Pagano and building/health official Crystal Lambert, states:

“The licensing requirements will be beneficial for the local building industry, consumers and future property owners by ensuring that building contractors who undertake any work for which a County building permit is required under the County Building Code holds the minimum general liability insurance and has competency with the building codes. 

“Additionally, a building community equipped with building code knowledge can alleviate the work demand on staff in the field and office and costs associated with corrections at the plan review and construction stages.” 

The assessment process is accessible online or can be taken in person in Denver and Grand Junction. The exam is open book with 80 questions and is based on International Code Council (ICC). The test is currently available, said Lambert, with a fee of $140. 

“We’re in a stage in our building and our county to have these requirements,” said county commissioner Roland Mason. He spoke personally of his own experience as a building contractor that the new licensing would help identify that someone is a professional, even to outside entities. “This solidifies the fact that you are a contractor.”

 During public comment prior to the commissioners’ vote, three local contractors spoke, generally in favor and with a few questions regarding out of area contractors, subcontractors and enforcement. 

Lambert said that if a licensed contractor comes into the area to work and has taken this test elsewhere, they would just need to provide proof of license and insurance, and that is likely reciprocal in other areas of the country since the ICC is internationally recognized. She said there would be an enforcement policy with the program, and actions such as fines, license revocation and stopped or suspended work as outlined in the proposal, would be enforced. The ability to pull a permit will also be tied to it.

Mike Wright of Wright Angle Construction in Crested Butte said he appreciated that. “At times it does still feel like the Wild West…It would be comforting to know that everyone’s working on the same sheet of paper,” he said.   

Ric Ems, fire marshal with the Crested Butte Fire Protection District, said the proposal was well written. “We are very much in support of your resolution,” he said. “We all go by the ICC, and it really helps with our relationships as we continue to grow into the future. It is busy up there.” 

The new requirements will go into effect on February 1, 2023, and more information and the details of test materials and test sites will be posted on the county’s website.

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