Letters to the Editor

Higher standards needed for contractors

Skilled, blue-collar construction is at an all-time low. I have witnessed the drain it puts on homeowners. Simply put, it’s all about home construction and the agony that follows because Mississippi does not require adequate licensing.

Here’s what have I heard from friends and acquaintances: A near fatality when a contractor installed a propane stove in a natural gas home; fireplaces bricked but never hooked up; a wall of bricks installed without the fasteners needed to hold them to the wall; egregious construction errors in doorways; and plumbing errors. My all-time favorite: A home built over the coded limit of a neighbor’s property. The bricks had to be dismantled to meet the lot requirements.

As I tried to distinguish how these failures could be allowed, I checked other states’ requirements for issuing a contractor’s license. What I found was astounding. In many states, a prerequisite for sitting for a license examination may include three years of construction experience supported by W-2s from employers, three or four years of vocational-technical education, or a bachelor’s degree in design, architecture or engineering. That’s a far cry from Mississippi, which basically says: Sign up and pass a test. The state’s three-hour exam has 80 multiple-choice questions.

Reciprocity agreements include Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee and Arkansas; all interchangeable and not requiring additional licensure. In other words, our license works in those states.

Changes are needed to firm up our building standards with a skilled workforce working toward a stronger foundation in Mississippi.

Liz Serpa