A new Suffolk County law requires all swimming pool and spa maintenance companies to be licensed. Owners are required to take a weeklong certification course, pass a test, and join the Long Island Association of Pool and Spa Professionals.
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Though politicians lauded the measure as a way to control the chemicals used in spa cleaning, some professionals blanched at the costs involved in the certification process. Also in question is the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals, which stands to enrich its coffers considerably as a result of the law - APSP is the only entity licensed to administer the test, and its huge lobbying arm contributes liberally to local politicians.
The cost of the county certificate itself is modest -- $100 every two years. But the course will cost from $500 to $800, and the cost of joining the APSP is $395 to $585 depending on the size of the pool company.
"It's a lot of money," acknowledged Legislator Jay Schneiderman. He acknowledged the pool and spa industry has an active lobby.
Schneiderman is concerned the county won't enforce the law. "It seems Consumer Affairs is not enforcing anything on the East End," he said.
Not so, said Joan Taylor of the County Consumer Affairs Department. "There will be enforcement," she said, when the new law takes effect on July 17. She said her department sends out investigators and they literally "drive up and down the streets. When they see a pool being serviced, they will approach the workers and will check for the license and to see what chemicals are being used."
Taylor acknowledged APSP is poised to make a killing on the new legislation, and said she hopes the county will begin offering the course in the coming years.
Jonathan Hillman of Sunrise Pools noted the new bill is quite costly – it will be over $1000 out of his pocket. "It's a good thing if they go after the guys who don't do it," he said. "People who are not licensed and insured need to be weeded out."
Karen Pinto, a spokeswoman for the Long Island Chapter of APSP did not return two calls seeking comment.
Taylor said, "Not one person is pleased" with the cost of the certification process. She said her office is committed to "enforce the law the best we can" and said there will be an 800 hotline set up for homeowners and pool professionals to report those who are engaged in the business without a proper permit.
The new law has some teeth to it: "any person who operates a pool maintenance business without obtaining a registration certificate" could be fined as much as $5000 and/or face imprisonment for one year.