October 2019
ALERT -- DPU Issues New Natural Gas Moratorium on Columbia Gas; Order Provides Relief On Case-by-Case Basis for Homebuilders

Due to recent failures to follow protocols, including yet another highly publicized Grade 1 gas leak in Lawrence leading to evacuations in the City on September 27, Mass. Department of Public Utilities (DPU) Commissioner Matthew Hanson issued a directive to Columbia Gas on October 3 limiting the utility to performing only emergency work on its natural gas distribution system throughout its service territories (i.e., Lawrence, Springfield, Brockton). As a result of the concerns which the HBRAMA raised last year concerning the National Grid Moratorium, however, our Association’s lobbyist, Ben Fierro, was contacted on October 3 by leadership at the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to stress that the DPU’s new order will permit the Department of Public Utilities to approve specific requests to complete other work, as set forth in Chairman Nelson's letter to Columbia Gas. A copy of the DPU letter to Columbia Gas is here . As noted in the DPU letter, “[a]s a general matter, the Department expects to approve work involving customer service connections and conversions of heating supply for new and existing customers." The Association was informed that this provision was included in the directive specifically to help homebuilders. As a result of the DPU letter, homebuilders seeking to obtain new natural gas connections should submit their requests directly to Columbia Gas, which should then submit them to the DPU for approval. It is comforting to know that the HBRAMA’s voice is being heard so that DPU orders, such as the one imposed on Columbia Gas, will provide a relief mechanism to prevent disruption to homebuilders in the Columbia Gas service territories. 

Builders Urged To Attend and Participate in Hearing on State Building Code

The Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) will be holding an important meeting scheduled for Tuesday, November 5 at 10:00 a.m. at 1000 Washington Street, Boston, to accept public comments on the State Building Code. This is the second of only two hearings held each year by the BBRS where the public has the opportunity to offer comments, suggestions and amendments to the Code. Members of the HBRAMA are urged to attend and participate.
 
The HBRAMA and its representative on the BBRS, Michael McDowell, have been trying to eliminate the sprinkler requirement for one and two-family dwellings for many years, and he recommends limiting the applicability of sprinklers in the one- and two-family dwelling code to 14,400 square feet, (i.e., any one or two-family dwelling over 14,400 sq. ft.). A code change request should be made for elimination of residential sprinklers. Mr. McDowell recommends that mandatory fire extinguishers for every floor would be more useful than sprinklers (13D systems).
 
The 9 th Edition of the Code eliminated the Home Improvement Contractor (HIC) Registration Program that is administered by the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulations. Mr. McDowell also recommends Licensed Construction Supervisors be exempt from the program along with electricians, plumbers and architects. Mr. McDowell further believes the HIC Program should be expanded to all unlicensed individuals who contract for over $1,000.00. We thank Mike McDowell for his participation and effort in serving as a Member of the BBRS, a position to which he was appointed in 2015.
On The Level Congratulates HBRAMA’s New Officers for FY 2020 

Congratulations to President Matt Anderson! Congratulations to our new officers for FY2020 who were sworn in at the Annual Installation Ceremony and Dinner held at the Heritage Museum and Gardens in Sandwich on October 2. We thank incoming President Matt Anderson, President-Elect Emerson Clauss III, First Vice President, Jeffrey Brem, P.E., Joshua Nolan, Vice President/Treasurer and Secretary, Robin Ward, and President, Hunter Marosits for dedicating their time and efforts to help each one us in the homebuilding industry. Officers will take their new positions as of January 1, 2020. Now more than ever, we need our many volunteers to step up and support Matt, Emerson, Jeff, Joshua, Robin and Hunter as we gear up for what promises to be a busy year. A special thanks to outgoing President Hunter Marosits for a tremendous job of leading the Association in a very important transitional year for the Association. We also thank EO Joe Landers for his very important work for the State Association this year. Lastly, congratulations to the recipients of the Legend of Industry Award recipients including: Scott Colwell of Colwell Homes and Hoover Realty Trust, Mike Duffany of M. Duffany Builders, Michael McDowell, CBO, of Total Construction, Total Real Estate & The Building Inspector of America; and John Smolak, Esq., of Smolak & Vaughan LLP for their contributions, and for setting such an important example of what it means to be a true leader in our industry. (The background of our Legend recipients is available here).

HBRAMA Opposes Fire Sprinklers in One and Two-Family Homes

The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security recently held a public hearing at the State House on House Bill No. 2027 , An Act relative to enhanced fire protection in new one and two family dwellings. This legislation would amend G.L. c. 148, § 26J to require the installation of automatic fire sprinklers in new or substantially rehabilitated one and two-family dwellings, subject to local acceptance. The HBRAMA strongly opposes the mandatory installation of sprinkler systems in one- and two-family homes because such systems are complicated, costly, and are of little value in protecting the life and safety of the occupants of such residences. The National Fire Prevention Association found that the survival rate in a single-family home increased from 99.62% to 99.82% with fire sprinklers (assuming in both cases the presence of working smoke detectors). The problem is not homes without sprinklers; the problem is homes without working smoke alarms. Fire sprinklers in one and two-family homes are not justified as a matter of cost or public safety.

The HBRAMA also opposes H. 2027 because this “local option” fire sprinkler bill further undermines the uniformity of the State Building Code. Moreover, the Association is strongly opposed to the adoption of construction codes through legislation, thereby circumventing the process and expertise of the BBRS.
 
President Hunter Marosits submitted written testimony on behalf of the HBRAMA to Sen. Michael Moore (D-Worcester) and Rep. Harold Naughton (D-Clinton), the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, setting forth in detail the reasons for the Association’s objection to this legislation. A copy of his letter can be found here.
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