MOULTRIE — Georgia has a new law that requires licensure for residential and general contractors, and existing contractors — if they are aware of the change — are assembling exemption information before the grandfathering period is up.

The new law creating a board of directors and setting forth licensure requirements went into effect July 1, 2005. Licenses were already required for other skilled trades, including conditioned air contractor, electrical contractor, low voltage contractor, master plumber, journeyman plumber, medical gas piping, utility contractor, utility manager and utility foreman, but for some reason not for general and residential contractors. The new licensure will be for residential-basic contracting, residential-light commercial contracting and general contracting, the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office Web site said.

Licensure is not required until July 1, 2007, but Georgia contractors or those who have offices in the state for the past five years can apply until June 30 of this year for an examination exemption. After that, the Secretary of State’s Office will begin accepting applications for licensure and reciprocity by examination.

Independent contractor Gordon Lewis was taken by surprise when The Observer contacted him for comment. He was unaware of the law change and doesn’t think he’s alone in missing the news.

“I’ve been in the contracting business for 20-odd years and have never been required to have anything other than my city license and general liability policy. To be perfectly honest with you — I was unaware. ... I had no clue,” he said.

Billy McIntosh, local project manager of Hogan Construction Group of Atlanta, recently passed the International Code Council (ICC) exam to bid future projects in Lowndes County. Lowndes County is one of several cities and counties that require the exam licensure for general and residential contractors.

McIntosh is in favor of Georgia’s new requirements, and Hogan Construction has submitted its application to become grandfathered in, he said.

“You go down to Florida and look at their requirements. It’s tough in Florida. Not only do you have to pass a test, but it’s like a four- and five-part test. It’s weeks and weeks of preparation for that,” he said.

“It’s gets these guys who are just out there who are not concerned about quality, and it gets them out of the competition. Those are the guys who generally come in and cut (a job from under) all the guys who are doing it right — those who are worrying about quality and safety,” he said. “Yeah, I think it’s definitely going to be a great thing.”

Cecil Barber of Barber Contracting, one of the larger local contractors, agrees with McIntosh.

“I think it’s good. .. Like when hurricanes hit Florida, you don’t want someone to come in and take advantage of folks. This is just a way of monitoring people. I think it’s a good system,” he said.

Barber said the form he saw even to be grandfathered in is a half-inch thick.

“They want a lot of information, but, you know, if everybody’s on the same playing field ...,” he said.

Independent contractor Donald Harrod of Norman Park has retired from the contracting business, but he offered his opinion about the new state requirements.

“Most all these laws need to be burned up, and any lawmaker that has more than a ninth grade education, fire him and hire some common judgment people. Write that in the paper and address it to Saxby and sign my name to it,” Harrod said. “I think we have too many laws now. We’re losing our freedom, and if we continue on the route we’re headed we’re going to be like some of these other nations — no freedom at all.”

Work under $2,500 does not require the services of a state-licensed contractor, said the Georgia Secretary of State Web site. Plus, property owners may construct a building or structure only for their own use and not for use by the general public and not offered for sale or lease. If the building or structure is transferred, the property owner will not be allowed to build another for a period of two years, unless he obtains a license or hires a licensed contractor to oversee the construction, said the Secretary of State Web site.

Applicants must show proof of workers compensation insurance, as required by law, and general liability insurance.

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