The topic of licensing for auto glass repair technicians in Connecticut took an unexpected, and possibly final, turn on Friday, December 17, 2004. At a meeting of the state's Automotive Glass Work and Flat Glass Work Board, members received a copy of an application for a temporary limited Auto Glass repair license and the definitions of what would constitute the licenses as developed by the state commissioner of consumer protection, Edwin Rodriguez, who oversees the board but does not attend its regular meetings.
The temporary license, which caught the board and audience members by surprise, was top priority at the meeting, with some members of the board voicing concern as to the creation of the license with disregard and disinterest in the board's work over the past year of meetings on the issue.
As board chairperson Edward Fusco called the meeting to order, deputy commissioner Jerry Farrell addressed the board to explain the development of the license and the actions of the Commissioner in doing so.
"Mr. Rodriguez asked me to be here this morning because he has followed some of the difficulties that this board has had in the past couple months and has said that we need to do something to perhaps temporarily [answer] some of the questions," Farrell said. "Soon down the road, we're told in approximately 12-18 months, that ANSI is going to adopt a standard that may bring a conclusion to some of the [concerns]. The thought out of the commissioner's office is that right now we have a situation where there are people who may be out there and working and there's no legitimate means for them to get licensed. So, our thought is that with the ANSI standard out there and a real belief that that's probably where this debate properly belongs. If, for some reason, the ANSI standards are never adopted, there is language in there that allows the commissioner to look at other references."
After some discussion in which director of the department of consumer protection Richard Hurlburt detailed more specifically how the temporary license would work and allayed concerns by some board members that they would be bypassed in the decision-making process.
"The commissioner is not going to bypass anyone," he said. "If someone came up with a super-duper resin that would never leave a blemish and would just completely disappear and look like someone never had a repair at all, and someone brought that to light and the board members reviewed it, the commissioner would like the board's advice as well and that may change everything again."
"So it will still come through us, first?" inquired board member Kurt Muller of Auto Glass Express, who was assured by Hurlburt that the board's input and advice would be sought before decisions would be made.
Board member John Wisniewski of PayLess Auto Glass expressed concern about the assurance, however, noting that the board never got the meeting they requested with the Commissioner.
"I do totally agree with what you said, but I have a problem after the last meeting, Mary [Grabowski], who was acting [chairperson], requested a formal meeting for all of us to sit with Commissioner Rodriguez and we were never granted that," Wisniewski said. "I'm under the understanding that Safelite and a team of lawyers were granted that [and] the message that sends the board is that we're immaterial. I don't think we should vote until we meet with him, especially since he is entertaining other people on the same subject. I would feel much more comfortable hearing that from Mr. Rodriguez, but he won't meet with us."
While Wisniewski was sharing his concerns, addressing them to the deputy commissioner present, an office aide summoned Deputy Commissioner Farrell from the room, a call he answered immediately, leaving Wisniewski mid-sentence. The deputy commissioner did not return to the meeting.
Grabowski agreed with Wisniewski, going on record with her disgust over the situation.
"I would have to agree with John," she said. "I would like to go on record, too, saying that I feel insulted. I got this [holding up the application] this morning. I don't know if anyone got it last night, but I feel we're useless if he's going to sit down with people in the industry and then sends a deputy commissioner I feel sorry for, to take the blame."
Board chairperson Edward Fusco reminded the board members and listening public that the concern before the board was really about public safety and pushed the board to vote on the question before them.
"We're not going to make a motion. We have to put something on the board," he said.
Wisniewski expressed concern regarding the inclusion of the clause allowing one repair within the driver's side wiper-sweep area, citing statements on the State Farm, AIG and Progressive websites, among others, that reflect company protocol that does not allow for repair in the driver's side wiper-sweep area, returning to a debate that has proven a sticking point for the licensure topic, the wiper sweep/driver's line of vision.
A brief but heated discussion ensued as different board members spoke of their experiences with repair and Mike Boyle, president of Glas-Weld Systems, challenged the argument that large insurance companies state that they won't do windshield repair in the driver's line of vision.
"Steve Shaw, who runs LYNX Services, is on the [Repair of Auto Glass Standards] committee and he would sit here today and say [that] what you just said is not true, because we have worked in the training facility of links and they will ask you if its larger than a dollar bill but they will let the consumer decide if they want repair or replacement, not you," said Boyle.
"That's where this decision belongs. If you educate the consumer let them make the decision," he added.
Though of the opinion that the one repair in the wiper sweep area was still fairly limiting, Boyle described the license as a step forward.
"The fact that the commissioner met without your knowledge and those type things, I don't think that's right either. I've spent too much time and money here to have someone in another office throw everything out the window, but he's trying to do the right thing," Boyle said. "What [the temporary license] basically says is that a [Repair of Auto Glass Standards, (RoAGS)] committee is going to spend thousands of dollars and provide worldwide data to create a standard you can then go back and say, 'this is the right thing to do.' The standard will define proper repair by the proper people. Until then, it's a good standard that at least gets this issue moving forward."
After the points of conflict were discussed in full, Fusco said that, ultimately, the temporary limited repair license before the board was to take affect immediately, and the board was voting on whether or not to endorse it.
"You're giving your blessing, of sorts," he said.
Calling for a vote on the temporary limited repair license, Carl Von Dassell of Tri-State Glass and Fusco voted in favor, members Wisniewski, Muller and Bob Steben of Ed Steben Glass Co. voted against it, and public member Mary Grabowski choose to abstain from voting.
The board also reviewed and discussed how the licensing issue might effect the flat glass industry. For more information see tomorrow's article on the USGlass News Network (USGNN).
The board also heard from the state attorney as to recent incidents of companies practicing in the state without a license; two incidents were mentioned, one in the flat glass industry and one in the auto glass industry. In both cases, the owners of the company were from out-of-state and did not have Connecticut licenses to perform the work. Both companies were issued cease and desist orders and were fined for the transgressions.
Before adjourning the meeting Fusco called for any last business to be presented to the board, Boyle inquired of the board as to the need for licensure to repair insulating glass units that fail. After explaining to the board how it works and ensuring that the moulding of a window is not compromised, the board acknowledged that there was no license required to repair insulating glass units and made no indication that one would be needed for such work. When asked for a motion and approval for it, the board nodded in agreement, one board member responding "I wish him a lot of luck. Does anyone know how many failed units there are out there?"
"About as many as chipped windshields," Boyle responded, soliciting laughter from the room.
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