Plumbers in Parsons for a limited time can get a license without taking the standardized test usually required.
During a special meeting Friday afternoon, the Parsons City Commission approved a resolution allowing plumbers to get a license to practice their trade in the city without a master or journeyman certificate until April 30. Those receiving temporary licenses must have either worked for a licensed plumber for several years or did plumbing work of their own outside of the city.
The move was made to alleviate the backlog of people still waiting to have their pipes thawed or repaired after the Arctic blast sent local low temperatures below zero for the last several days.
City Manager Debbie Lamb said there are two or three unlicensed plumbers who have a long list of people wanting them to work on their pipes. Commissioner Leland Crooks said one plumber has told customers he won’t be able to get to their house for three days.
“It’s pretty bad. It’s pretty bad,” Crooks said.
Crooks wanted to know if the work of the unlicensed plumbers would be inspected, particularly any natural gas line jobs. The city currently doesn’t have a building inspector, but city staff members such as Derek Clevenger, director of utilities, and Darrell Moyer, director of engineering and public works, have been handling inspector duties. Lamb said the city must notify that work has been inspected before Kansas Gas Service will turn on gas to a building following a project.
Work on gas lines was a concern for most of the commissioners. Commissioner Kevin Cruse thought at first that the temporary licenses shouldn’t include gas work.
“The gas thing scares me as well,” Commissioner Verlyn Bolinger said.
Commissioner Jeff Perez likewise was concerned.
“I’m not the expert on that. I just want to make sure that we overkill our safety to the public and whatever it takes to do that,” Perez said.
However, city officials believe that most of the focus on plumbing work over the next several weeks will be on pipe water line repair.
“I’m pretty sure there’s going to be enough repairs over the next two months to keep them busy,” Crooks said.
City Attorney Ross Albertini said the temporary licenses would allow plumbers to do all of the work as plumbers with regular licenses, so if they are hired to add new plumbing or replumb a bathroom, they can do that between now and April 30.
The Parsons area has had a plumbing shortage for several years. In response, the commission lowered the required minimum score on standardized testing for a license from 75% to 70% because some experienced plumbers were having trouble passing the test. The commission also approved a measure to allow the city to pay for people to take the plumbing test and a practice test up to three times as well as mileage and a meal per diem for one trip to a testing facility.
On Monday Lamb said because of the COVID-19 pandemic, plumbers can take the test at home while being monitored by computer camera. If local unlicensed plumbers decide to do that using city funds, the city will require them to take the test under city supervision at the Municipal Building.
Crooks hopes that the temporary license will lead to full licenses for at least a couple of plumbers.
“I think April 30 is a good idea. Maybe that will light a fire under all those people to get it done — take the test and do it,” Crooks said.