Archive for January, 2012

Storm damage? Watch who you hire for clean up

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Driving through my neighborhood this week I noticed a sign staked off the side of the road with the handwritten message: “Tree Removal.” The only other information on it was a phone number.

Seems like every time an event like the recent ice storm hits, there’s a slew of “contractors” that come out of the woodwork.

Before calling that guy on the sign, remember he is probably not registered with the state as a contractor. That means he may not have insurance if he trims a tree that subsequently falls onto your house. Also, I believe that if he falls and injures himself, the unsuspecting homeowner that hired him could be liable.

The state Department of Labor & Industries says a little homework upfront can protect homeowners from fraud, shoddy work or bad contractors.

L&I says to take these steps when hiring a contractor or tree trimmer:
• Visit www.HiringAContractor.Lni.wa.gov to verify the company is registered, how much insurance they carry and their bonding capacity.
• Beware of contractors who ask to be paid in cash, have a check made out to someone other than the business, work just weekends or use high-pressure sales tactics.
• Avoid paying a large deposit or the entire cost upfront, and be sure to get the required Notice to Customer disclosure for any project that is more than $1,000.
• If subcontractors are used, or costly materials from suppliers, get lien releases from them. Before making final payment on the job, make sure subcontractors aren’t owed any money. Unpaid subcontractors can hold you responsible for their work by putting liens on your home.

Navy Proposes PLA for Bangor

Friday, January 20th, 2012

For the first time on any Department of Defense project, the U.S. Navy is requiring the use of a project labor agreement (PLA).  AGC protests Naval Facilities Engineering Command’s (NAVFAC’s) use of a PLA for the building of the $450-550 million second explosives handling wharf at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.

AGC is strongly opposed to government-negotiated PLAs.  The Navy says it is setting the parameters of the PLA rather than actually negotiating the agreement between the selected contractor and the unions.  However, it does not appear there is much negotiation “wiggle room” beyond the Navy’s parameters, which were preset with Labor.

The Defense Department is reportedly under pressure from the Obama Administration to increase the use of PLAs in its building plans. AGC is particularly concerned because the use of a PLA on such a large project could generate a large push for additional PLAs on federal projects in the State.

AGC strongly believes that the choice of whether to adopt a collective bargaining agreement should be left to the contractor-employers and their employees, and that such a choice should not be imposed as a condition to competing for, or performing on, a publicly funded project. Government mandates and preferences for PLAs can restrain competition, drive up costs, cause delays, lead to jobsite disputes, and disrupt local collective bargaining. In cases where use of a PLA would benefit a particular project, the construction contractors otherwise qualified to perform the work would be the first to recognize that fact and to adopt a PLA voluntarily. They would also be the most qualified to negotiate the terms of such an agreement.

AGC has worked with the short-listed contractors on their own response to the call for comments from the Navy, which has indicated it will soon respond to these comments.

What? Robots build a tower near Paris?

Friday, January 6th, 2012

NPR’s science blogger Robert Krulwich reports that helicopter robots in France have built a 20-foot tower out of foam bricks.

While the project was only a small-scale demonstration, it begs the question: Will the future construction workforce consist of robots directed by computer programmers?

Check out Krulwich’s blog here. Watch the robots in action below.