EVANSTON — The Evanston City Council met for a work session on Tuesday, Oct. 26, at 5:30 p.m., with a full house in the conference room at City Hall. The subject of the meeting was a need for certification requirements for HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) contractors with concerns voiced by Dominion Energy and others.
Dominion Energy representative Jeff Bybee opened the discussion by introducing members of a group accompanying him: Rocky Mountain Gas Association (RMGA) Executive Director Jon Hill, Tim Ridenour with Tom’s HVAC, Rick Mair with Dominion Energy and local building inspector Bob Liechty.
“We have come with a proposal,” Bybee said. “We are asking the city to create an ordinance that requires all HVAC contractors to be certified in order to get a business license. In the past the gas company, which I’ve been with for 37 years, did all of the installation and maintenance of HVAC; but, over time, the gas company reduced what we do. It is important to be able to trust an HVAC contractor and at present no certification is required in Wyoming. The state of Utah has a law that all HVAC contractors have to be certified.”
Bybee said the problem has been that no city or county has been positive toward passing a requirement for certification because of lack of funds to enforce it. He then asked Jon Hill to explain what RMGA provides to keep customers confident in the service.
“We have been certifying technicians since 2001,” Hill said. “We hold classes here and throughout southwest Wyoming. We work with the community colleges and a testing center is located here in Evanston and in Rock Springs and Green River.”
Hill explained that RMGA training consists of three days of classes, 8 hours a day and anyone is eligible to take the classes on a computer. It costs $300 for the classes and $100 to take the test and a passing grade is 80 correct out of 100 questions to become certified. They also give a free retake if an individual doesn’t pass on the first try. Hill said they have a 65-68% pass rate. RMGA provides a study guide with the actual questions highlighted and they have a pre-test of 50 questions if a person wants to test their knowledge before the final exam. Hill added RMGA also provides trainings twice a year on any changes in the requirements. RMGA has also developed an apprenticeship program.
“We also keep a list of certified contractors on our website, wyrmga.org,” Hill said.
City Attorney Dennis Boal raised the objection that the city cannot license individuals but, rather, businesses, and he questioned who would enforce the rule. He told the council the place to start would be to look at Utah’s law for an example.
“Somebody on the job has to be certified,” Ridenour said, “not every individual. The building inspector can ask to see the certification and fines could be administered in city court.”
Bybee told the Council that RMGA is a non-profit organization made up of HVAC contractor members. He said the industry polices the industry and if a member is not following regulations, they can restrict their membership. RMGA is responsible for all of the administration of the certification process not the enforcement of the law; that is up to the city with fines and with a certification requirement ordinance.
Bybee said his concern is that, currently, no one is policing companies and no certification is required. He said Dominion Energy consistently runs into problems with customers having had contractors that did poor work and the gas company has to refuse to turn on their gas until the problem is remedied.
Liechty told the council that electrical contractors are required to be licensed under state law and a state inspector can walk onto a job site at any time and ask to see a license. The state inspector can also inspect HVAC but only for fire code and life safety regulations.
“I don’t inspect gas lines,” Liechty said. “In Kemmerer, the building inspector chooses to inspect the gas lines. Dominion Energy can make their customers aware if there is a problem but it is up to the customer what they do about it.
“I am frustrated,” Liechty added. “We need some kind of certification [or] license.”
Bybee said to rely on the state passing a law is futile; they don’t want to administer it. Mair added that if there was a requirement for certification in order to get a business license it would self-regulate, as customers would start asking ask to see it. Hill agreed and added that the building inspector would also be able to ask to see the certification.
Councilman Evan Perkes said, “If someone is replacing my 50-year-old furnace or water heater, I want to know they are certified.”
In conclusion, Bybee said, Dominion Energy has invited HVAC contractors to the trainings they have held and no one has shown up because there is no certification required.
“Every state should have a certification requirement,” Bybee said. “We are starting by asking city councils here and in Rock Springs next, to take action and implement an ordinance on certification. I’ll get you a copy of the Utah code to review.”
Mayor Kent Williams said he would be interested to know how other cities respond and that the council would review Utah’s law.
“There is value in what you are proposing,” Williams said, “but we need to know how to go about it. We could bring the subject up at the upcoming WAM (Wyoming Association of Municipalities) Conference, also.”