Tell us about TU Parks Construction ...
T U Parks in its 76th year and I believe that we are now the oldest construction company in the Chattanooga area. Our business model has us involved in all facets of construction with the exception of highway and heavy industrial. We've had a major focus on health care for nearly 50 years and recently have been working on several renovation projects in the downtown area, including Common House in the former Industrial Y building, the refurbishment of a large warehouse space into offices, and nearing completion of the new rowing center for GPS and McCallie. We also work on high-end residential projects.
TU Parks was started by grandfather, T. U. Parks. His son’s Homer, and my father, C. A. “Red” Parks really built the business. Everyone served in leadership roles of the AGC chapter and were also active industry advocates. We're currently in our 4th generation of leadership at T U Parks with my son, Robert, currently serving on the AGC East Tennessee Board.
How have you been involved in AGC over the years?
Charlie Clevenger (former President of AGC East Tennessee) got me involved on the Board of Directors as Secretary/Treasurer of the Chapter in 1981 and around that time I went to my first national convention in Washington, DC. I then served as the President of the Chattanooga branch during 1985 and 1986 while serving as Vice President of AGC of East Tennessee.
Around that time, Charlie and I first attempted to launch a self-insured workers' comp trust and then in 1994 we partnered with the rest of the state to make it a reality. I served as Vice Chair of CompTrust AGC Tennessee from day one and stepped up as Chair in 2013.
On the national level, I served on various AGC of America Committees and when Jim Lail from Chattanooga was President of AGC of America he asked me to serve on his Executive Committee .
Why are you a member of AGC?
AGC is the leading association in the industry and is a network of the better contractors. The legislative support that the AGC gives the contractors in federal, state and local issues is incredibly important, and I've found connections through industry networking to be a great resource. I attended just about every national convention for decades and state and regional conferences over the years. I also went through AGC's Executive Management Program which was an invaluable learning experience. Through AGC, I've met a lot of people, been a lot places, and have had a lot of fun.
After a year and a half of a concerted effort with construction associations across the state, last week the House and State passed HB0271 adding new payment protections that mitigate risks for GCs and subs. The highlights include:
Click here for a link to the full bill
Click here for a link to the summary
The Chattanooga Land Development Office is rolling out a new permitting software starting on May 11th, 2020. They acknowledged that this is not the ideal time to implement new software, but they did receive positive comments about the ease of use of the software from contractors during their testing phase. To help with the transition, they provided the following instructions found below on the application and further information about the new program, ViewPoint Cloud.
Several members have asked for clarification on culpability if an employee of a subcontractor contracts COVID-19 while working on a jobsite. Tim Gibbons with Chambliss Law has provided guidance for our Chapter members:
The illness should be handled as though it were any other alleged work-related injury/illness and should be subject to the exclusive remedy under the workers' compensation law. Employee would first look to subcontractor's workers' comp policy, but might also try to rope in the G/C as a "statutory employer" if the subcontractor doesn't have workers comp. Remember that, even if the subcontractor has told the G/C it has workers' comp insurance, if it doesn't, the G/C may be regarded as the "statutory employer" for workers' comp purposes.
Conventional wisdom among employment and workers' comp attorneys and insurance adjusters is that it's going to be exceedingly difficult for an employee to demonstrate that contraction of COVID-19 is compensable under Tennessee workers' comp law (and similarly in other states). In TN, an illness is not compensable unless "it has been shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the employment contributed more than fifty percent (50%) in causing the injury, considering all causes." Unless the employee is a recluse living alone and has gone nowhere except his job site, this is going to be a tough standard to meet.
As to what's happening when employees get the virus, that could present a different question. Typically, the employer puts the employee on leave until no longer symptomatic (i.e., recovered). Employer also notifies persons with whom the positive employee was in "close contact." If they are asymptomatic, they can continue coming to work as long as they appropriately monitor (e.g., temperature checks before shift). Employee's work station, tools, etc., should be thoroughly sanitized.
Starting February 17, 2020, the City of Chattanooga's Land Development Office will be requiring a copy of a contractors license, business license, and workman's compensation insurance, if applicable, to be presented at the time of permit issuance. If the contractor has no employees they must present the card the state provides as proof of not needing workers compensation insurance.
This requirement is a result of many contractors applying for permits with expired business licenses , which takes 2 weeks to renew. Valid licenses are required to pull a permit.
Out of 4,779 worker fatalities in private industry in calendar year 2018, 1,008 or 21.1% were in construction — that is, one in five worker deaths last year were in construction. The leading causes of private sector worker deaths (excluding highway collisions) in the construction industry were falls, followed by struck by object, electrocution, and caught-in/between.
These "Fatal Four" were responsible for more than half (58.6%) the construction worker deaths in 2018. Eliminating the Fatal Four would save 591 workers' lives in America every year.
Other Shocking Safety Stats from OSHA:
Top 10 Most Frequently Cited OSHA Standards Violated in FY 2018
The following were the top 10 most frequently cited standards by Federal OSHA in fiscal year 2018 (October 1, 2017, through September 30, 2018):
AGC of East Tennessee can provide your team with top-notch safety training. Click here to fill out our safety training request form, or contact Carol Pond at email@example.com or (423) 265-1111.
Members of AGC of East Tennessee are committed to the principles of skill, responsibility and integrity and support high standards of building practices that respect and protect the environment while balancing unfair, unnecessary over-regulation.
With the development boom in Chattanooga and an increase in construction projects on hillsides, the Regional Planning Agency of Hamilton County recently conducted an analysis of existing steep slope and floodplain regulations in Chattanooga in comparison to peer cities. Upon completion, RPA recently presented a slate of possible regulations to City Council that the organization feels would curb damage to surrounding property during and after construction. Here is a link to the executive summary of their findings and proposals:
A review committee of AGC members determined that, while much of what is included in RPA’s recommendations are good and fair building practices, there are several issues that were cause for concern that were recently voiced at a public meeting with City Council.
Enforcement. A lack of consistent enforcement by the city of the existing regulations may partly contribute to reported steep slope and floodplain development issues. AGC questioned if enforcement of the existing regulations could address the problems, and expressed concerns that if these new regulations are passed without an enforcement plan that we will continue to see more regulations proposed with the misguided hope of correcting bad behavior.
Permitting. Since the permitting process has become more expensive and challenging in recent years, AGC would like to see the process streamlined and expedited before introducing any new regulations that will further backlog the process.
Ambiguity. AGC requested removing any recommendations that involve aesthetics and materials selections by the city, which would be an infringement on private property rights. As an example, the recommendations suggest that the Land Disturbance Office would be authorized to select retaining wall materials, make tree removal decisions and mandate selective design decisions. We believe that those decisions should remain right of the property owner.
Practicality. AGC recommended that City Council consider the creation of a review committee consisting of architects, engineers and contractors to review the recommendations and ensure that what is being proposed is practical in the field.
City Council has stated that they will be reviewing the recommendations and input by the public, taking field trips to the peer cities with similar regulations, and continue receiving input over the next few months.
How did you start your career in construction?
I didn't start out in construction. I studied journalism in college and in previous life spent time as a writer, mostly writing about music. But I grew up around the trades. My dad was an engineer at TVA and built our house, and my grandparents were trade-oriented. So I starting picking up carpentry in college because the kind of journalism I did required supplemental income. It's the typical story you hear ... I got that fancy degree and racked up debt, and then switched to become a carpenter.
I worked for my dad for a couple of years in home building where I cut my teeth in construction management. When the bottom fell out in ’08 and things got crazy in the industry, his small company folded. I was married and we were expecting a child and so I knew I had to either swing a hammer for someone else or make a run for it on my own. I started New Blue in August 2008 in the worst quarter of the worst year. At the time it was just me and I had a few jobs lined up, and then things just sort of grew from there. It was touch and go for the first years, but now our staff has grown with a focus on self performance so we have carpenters, painters and a full crew in-house today.
What kind of projects do you choose?
We do a mix of residential and commercial work and most of our commercial work centers on renovation. We're definitely remodelers. Our niche is fixing old buildings and we're comfortable in that space. The Stove Works project in Chattanooga is a good example of what we do. We're in Phase 1 renovation of a 30,000-sf old brick building from the 1920s, and Phase 2 we will be restoring a 1908 building.
How do you see the industry evolving in the years ahead?
Skilled labor is on everybody's mind. We're seeing greater competition in recruiting quality people as wages continue to rise. Wage increases is legit and is not going anywhere. Some of that is needed from a cost of living point of view but there's a balance in keeping that sustainable. New Blue has had luck with retention. We emphasize to our foreman and leads to take time to train on the job and have some good success stories on our side in training formerly unskilled guys to become quality workers.
I think the energy code and building codes will continue to constantly chase a higher level of efficiency and adapting to those requirements may be a challenge.
Why did New Blue join AGC?
AGC is positioning itself in a more forward thinking way to support Chattanooga as a building community and I am impressed with how AGC is using it's resources as an organization. AGC's continuing education is strong, and I like AGC's engagement with Chamber and other civic-driven organizations.