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Board chairman responds to letter

To the editor:

This is in response to Dave Harster in the Aug. 28 edition of the Call.

My name is Butch Welsch. I am the contractor representative on the Mechanical Licensing Board to which Mr. Harster refers. I have also served as chairman of the board since its inception.

Mr. Harster should attend one of our monthly meetings and get his facts correct before writing a letter filled with inaccuracies.

Starting with his fourth paragraph: The changes made into the legislation did not bring about the testing requirement. That was always in the legislation and is part of all St. Louis County licensing laws. It is not unique to mechanical licensing.

He implies that Buzz Westfall and the Pipefitters designed the tests. This is ab-solutely untrue.

The test for Pipefitters and Sprinklerfitters is the same test required if they become licensed under the Plumbing Code and has been used in St. Louis County — and many, many other parts of the country — for many years.

The same company that provides the Pipefitter and Sprinklerfitter tests also has available a Sheet Metal Test. Therefore, we adopted that test for those seeking a Sheet Metal License. Unfortunately that company was in a state of reorganization when we were seeking an HVAC test and they refused to provide such a test.

Our board then met with three different testing agencies to look at their options for the HVAC test. We strongly considered a test provided by NATE, a national service technician accrediting agency. Their test would have cost the HVAC individual twice as much as any of the three tests. We felt that was unacceptable.

Therefore, we settled on what we felt was the best testing situation available — a test provided by HVAC Excellence, also a na-tional testing company.

This company only offers closed-book tests. However, they provided us with documentation that the pass/failure rate of their tests is equivalent to that of other testing agencies which use an open-book test.

In fact, to date, 11 individuals have taken the HVAC Servicer/Installer test and one passed and 10 failed. We have looked at this very carefully and discuss it at each and every meeting.

In reviewing the qualifications of those who have taken and failed the test, they are individuals who have worked on the periphery of our industry and hoped to be able to obtain a license.

If they had been intelligent and prepared they would have applied and received their license during the extensive "grandfathering'' period in which no testing was required.

We are very cognizant of the problems of having an unfair test. I speak regularly at our meetings with representatives of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, who represent mostly non-union contractors regarding our concern about the test.

We have agreed to closely monitor the situation. If we find that heating and air conditioning technicians who have passed local trade schools with good grades fail the test then Mr. Harster has my commitment that the test will be changed.

I resent Mr. Harster's remarks that the "licensing issue ... continues to choke St. Louis County growth.'' We on the Licensing Board have worked extremely diligently to administer the mechanical licensing fairly.

I have appeared at ACCA contractor meetings with the St. Louis head of the Department of Public Works, Garry Earls, who also serves on our board, to answer questions and or concerns any contractors have regarding the mechanical licensing.

I encourage Mr. Harster to attend one of our meetings or to call me personally so that I might clear up the many misconceptions he has regarding the implementation of the county's mechanical licensing law.

George "Butch'' Welsch

chairman, St. Louis County

Board for Mechanical Licensing

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