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Jul 1, 2014 4:46 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

County Moves To Make Life Easier For Electricians By Nixing Local Licensing Fees

Jul 8, 2014 4:37 PM

East Hampton Town’s own “lamp doctor,” Russ Calemmo, has been fighting the good fight for master electricians.

Late last month, he helped push a bill through both the New York State Senate and Assembly that would eliminate additional fees and red tape for those who want to work in Suffolk County. It is now on its way to be signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The law would make Suffolk County the sole licensing agent for master electricians and would not allow other municipalities, such as villages and towns, to issue their own permits. Instead, the county’s Electrical Licensing Board would assume all electrical licensing duties within the county.

Mr. Calemmo, in addition to being a healer of broken chandeliers and other lighting fixtures, is chairman of the county’s Electrical Licensing Board.

He said he is thrilled that the bill passed the Assembly on June 18. “I finally slept last night,” he said the day after. “This was one of the hardest issues we had undertaken for the county.”

He said the board has fought for a law like this for 15 years. In Nassau County, there is no such law, which means each municipality can have its own licensing requirement and fee.

When all is said and done, a master electrician who works throughout Nassau County can be required to pay thousands of dollars in permit fees. Mr. Calemmo said that an electrician would have to obtain 27 licenses at various levels, ranging from $50 to $100 each, and then pay insurance fees as well. “It would cost you $5,000, and you haven’t done any work yet,” he said.

But State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who sponsored the bill in the Assembly, pointed out that the change also would close off that revenue source, or potential revenue source, to municipalities. Still, he said, “After reviewing it, I thought it was in the public’s interest.”

Southampton Town makes approximately $35,000 a year from electrician licensing fees alone, according to Kyle Collins, the town’s planning and development administrator. He said there are currently 497 electricians licensed in Southampton. Each new license costs $200 and must be renewed every two years for $150. Southampton Village accepts county and town licensing.

Mr. Collins said the town started to license electricians at a time when the county did not have the manpower or the resources to cover the entire county. He said county officials were supportive of the town taking the initiative.

East Hampton Town does not have a separate license for electricians, but it does require licenses for home improvement contractors, who must pay a $100 license fee and, later, $50 for renewal. East Hampton Village also accepts town and county licenses.

Although East Hampton Town Clerk Carole Brennan was not able to say how many electricians are licensed with the town, Supervisor Larry Cantwell said on Monday that the law, if enacted, would certainly drain money from the town’s pocket.

“This is a typical, unfortunate grab by the county and state that sucks revenue out of local towns and diminishes the enforceability of these licensing provisions,” he said. Furthermore, he said it would be like an unfunded mandate because it could put the onus on local municipalities to enforce licensing and other issues. “If the county wants to adopt this law and distribute revenue to the local government so we can enforce it,” he said, “that’s something we could take a look at.”

But Mr. Calemmo said the county already takes care of electricians and the public by testing the contractors in practical and written exams, also putting them through background and insurance checks.

Suffolk County currently charges $200 to electricians who want to work in the county and requires that they pass an exam and have at least seven years of experience within the past 10 years. Mr. Calemmo said that the licensing board stays abreast of any changes in insurance, licensing or issues that arise with Suffolk County-registered electricians. There are about 1,500 licensed master electricians in Suffolk County, he said.

East Hampton Assistant Town Attorney Michael Sendlenski said a consumer in Montauk wronged by a contractor would be forced to file and attend a hearing on their complaint in Hauppauge at the county’s department of labor, licensing and consumer affairs.

But Senator Lee Zeldin, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said enforcement will be made easier under the law since there would be less confusion.

“Instead of having multiple rules from various levels of government and fees from one jurisdiction from the next one, there would be a simpler, consolidated process,” he said. “With less confusion, there will be less violations that will need to be enforced.”

He suggested that towns and villages within the county should work together to adopt an efficient process that would give them “a seat at the table” in developing the rules at the county level so that they’re able to clear up any concerns.

Southampton Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato said that there could be recourse to fight the new law but she has not heard anything about doing so. Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst did not return calls seeking comment this week.

Mr. Calemmo said some Nassau County officials are looking at the proposed law themselves, like Senator Jack Martins of Mineola.

“He’s looked at it very seriously and has been trying for the last 20 years to get Nassau to unite, but it boils down to money,” he said. “Towns feel it is a way for them to generate money without doing anything.”

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Why does electricity shock you? Cause it doesn't know how to conduct itself! LOL
By LovedHerTown (130), southampton on Jul 10, 14 12:51 PM
Hey, go get me a wire stretcher...
By Mr. Z (11376), North Sea on Jul 10, 14 4:47 PM
A victory for the little man!
By 1942sparky (18), Bridgehampton on Jul 11, 14 7:35 PM
8k run & 3 mile walk, Agawam Park, Southampton Rotary Club fundraiser