Spring 2009 Newsletter

Members Present: Bill McKay-Advanced Fire, Roger White-Knight Fire, Randy Knighton-Knight Fire, Ken Sirak-Victaulic, Joe Faulkner-Sprinx, Chuck Paradis-Sprinx, Kevin Kane-Viking Supply Net, Ron Greenman-Bates Technical College, Chuck Bamford-Bamford & associates

Randy opened the meeting promptly at 6:30.

The obvious big topic was the economy. Everyone noted that competition was beyond fierce with cut-to-the-bone bids and underbidding going to 20-40% below costs, and not just due to target money infusions on the union side of the industry. Apparently some contractors must think paying to do the work is better than not having the work. Here we go again. What kind of bar will this set this time when the economy recovers?

The low turn-out to this meeting was disappointing and commented upon. This is not the time to try to be frugal by skipping an expensive meal once a quarter. Probably won’t have much effect on your bottom line and those that regularly attend can vouch that this newsletter only touches on the highlights of the useful information that gets shared at our meetings. I think that many will agree, and that I can say unequivocally that when times are good these meetings are a lot of fun–have a few drinks, a good meal and yuk it up with your friends–but when times are tough they’re essential. Off the soapbox!

The Employee Free Choice Act was discussed and, at least in this industry and probably most, this legislation is opposed by both union and non-union employers. The point was made that the unions do not provide employment, contractors do.

Several of the members noted that they were hanging in there and lay-offs had been kept to a minimum but they also noted that things looked like they’d be getting worse before they got better. Ken Sirak said that Victaulic had laid off about 300 people internationally. Randy said that there was a good management article in Sprinkler Age (Mea culpa–I didn’t note which issue but I seem to recall either April or May so you’ll have to look through both).

Fitter licensing in this state is up an running. We all hope you’ve done the necessary to have your workers papered. Testing will start for new guys in September but that may be mute in the current economy. The Level 1 Certificate of Competency for design is no longer available for testing for the time being. The State test has been compromised and so the SFM has temporarily closed that door pending a decision on how to proceed. NICET seems to be where we’re headed.

The March edition of Sprinkler Age has an article on changes to NFPA 13 for the 2010 edition.

Watch your specs very carefully. Knight Fire had a job where, due to the light construction methods employed for the structure, no lifts were allowed on the second floor. This type of construction is increasing in popularity so be aware and add appropriate wording to your standard proposals.

Compatibility issues with plastic continue to be a concern. Kevin noted that the manufacturers are getting closer to a solution regarding the plastic/steel problems. Jobsite issues are still a big problem so make sure that you post your “Be Careful” notices in your documentation and to the owners/owner reps and GCs.

NAHB/BIA has been successful in several states in getting their latest strategy to thwart residential sprinklers into law. Rather than try to have the two paragraphs in the IRC that mandate residential sprinklers removed at the State level they are instead having laws enacted that prohibit local jurisdictions from adopting laws mandating sprinklers. If they get these enacted before the states adopt the IRC then the prohibitive law becomes the precedent law due to age (a day seems to be enough) and then any local adoption of the code must excise the residential sprinkler requirement. Lawyers, lawyers, lawyers.

For about a year and a half I’ve been trying to get us recognized with the IRS as a non-profit in our own right. We used to be under the umbrella of the national organization’s status but due to some new reporting legislation that was no longer possible. I’m happy to say that we were finally granted that status and that the IRS accepted our returns, basically punctuating the decision.

The meting adjourned and we all went home.

The next meeting will be held at the SeaTac 133 Coins at 6:30 PM, as usual, on Tuesday, 11 August 2009. Steve Muncy, president of AFSA, will be our guest.