COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. - Plumbers are uniting in Collier County over a permitting issue that has them outraged. They say an expensive permit and inspection fee is not necessary and costing them business.
"In Lee County we're busy all week long," business owner Allan Reeves says.
When it comes to business north of the Collier County line, Reeves' water heater company, Water Heaters Direct, is booming. But, in Collier County it's a different story.
"Over the last 16 months we've dropped 50 percent of our business."
Reeves says it's not that the business isn't there, but that the county has different requirements. Collier requires a $110 permit and inspection for any multi-family unit water heater replacement.
"What they look for when they go in and inspect isn't so much any of the plumbing connections, it's the electrical connections," Reeves tells us.
He says the process can turn a $500 water heater into a nearly $800 headache for a homeowner.
"You shouldn't really need to get that inspected. It already passed it's final inspection when the house was built."
Reeves says the cost has left his Collier clients choosing less expensive, and potentially dangerous options to replace their water heater.
"They'll either tackle it themselves, or have a friend or handyman do it. And those are the untrained, unlicensed people that we always hear about."
Now, 28 of his competitors and 70 plumbers have signed a petition asking Collier commissioners to do away with the permits. If they don't, Reeves says his only option will be to concentrate more on his Lee County clients.
"All of our advertising dollars are going towards Lee County. When we need to hire people we'll starting hiring people from Lee County."
Collier commissioners have agrees to look at the matter and bring it up again at one of their future meetings.