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Construction board says eliminating it will leave home, business owners unprotected

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Faced with the possibility that members of the Legislative Delegation could move next week to eliminate it, the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board is fighting back.

In a 15-page memorandum to the delegation, the board argues that its existence is necessary to protect home and business owners against unscrupulous and unlicensed contractors.

Eliminating the agency “opens a dangerous door for Pinellas County home and business owners to be unprotected, reverting the construction industry back to the stone ages of the early ‘7Os where ‘anything went ‘ — in essence removing the voice for ethical, licensed contractors,” the memo says.

It adds, “if the work of the PCCLB is shifted to the Pinellas County government or the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation …  the costs of the 1,500-2,000 cases per year would be pushed directly onto the taxpayers to the tune of over $2 million dollars annually.

“The PCCLB currently handles two­ thirds of the cases for the DBPR, which would increase the already overloaded caseload on the state. Current delays for hearings range from two months to three years with the DBPR as compared to the PCCLB’s appeals board which take an average of two weeks to schedule and grant a hearing.

“Put that in perspective for average Joe Homeowner or Business owner filing a complaint against an unlicensed contractor — the statute of limitations would expire in one year which could leave many high and dry on the waiting list.”

The memo comes two days after Pinellas County Commission Chair Janet Long wrote to both the board and the Legislative Delegation. In her letter, Long told them to get their house in order. In the letter to the delegation, she asks for the county to have the power to determine how best to serve Pinellas residents and business owners should the delegation turn the agency’s duties over to the county.

The PCCLB memo comes days before Tuesday’s delegation meeting, the agenda of which has an item concerning the PCCLB. No details were available about the agenda item.

The PCCLB has been under fire recently from a series of articles by the Tampa Bay Times, which allege, among other things, that homeowners and contractors feel “cheated, ignored and even stonewalled” by the PCCLB.

The bulk of the PCCLB’s memo is taken up with a point-by-point reply to the Times’ allegations. The allegations, the board says, are “false, misleading, misstated and misquoted.”

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