Council: Contractors Need Permits for City Projects, Even Without Fees

Haverhill City Council Vice President Colin F. LePage. (WHAV News photograph by Jay Saulnier)

Haverhill City Councilor Colin F. LePage. (WHAV News photograph by Jay Saulnier)

Councilors approved spending $9,950 to install a security camera at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Nichols Street.

They also voted to require the installer to provide proof of license or registration and to pull a permit for the job.

In the wake of a discovery that contractors were charged more than $300,000 for permits during construction of the Hunking School, councilors enacted an ordinance that the city could not charge for permits on city-owned projects.

But an unintended consequence of that decision is that contractors aren’t pulling permits on city jobs, especially small ones, such as the installation of surveillance cameras in high-crime neighborhoods, said Councilor Colin F. LePage.

“We’re not supposed to charge fees for our own work,” LePage said. “That makes people think if you’re not charged a fee, you don’t need a permit.”

Councilor Melinda E. Barrett, who asked last week that the order to pay for the camera be delayed, explained that she supports the camera, but wants to make sure proper procedures are followed.

“My issue is more with the city issuing permits or people not pulling permits, which leaves us exposed to work not being done correctly and leaves us susceptible if things go terribly wrong at some time down the line,” she said.

Barrett’s colleagues agreed to forward the issue to the council’s Administration and Finance subcommittee, with the goal of creating a procedure for small projects under $10,000 to ensure that permits are pulled and licenses are checked and that documentation for both is connected to the invoice submitted by the contractor for payment.

LePage resurrected Barrett’s suggestion, made during last year’s budget review, that the city consider hiring a facilities manager or clerk of the works to make sure that projects large and small have the proper oversight.