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July 20--PORTAGE -- Throughout the southern part of the city, you can hear the tapping of hammers hitting roofing nails.
Since the May 11 storm hit the city with high winds and large amounts of hail, the city's building department has issued 840 permits for new roofs and licensed 70 additional roofing contractors, said building commissioner Doug Sweeney.
The storm hit the city's south side, particularly south of U.S. 6 and east of Swanson Road, hard. Roofs were damaged and siding on many homes was riddled with thousands of holes caused by the driving hail. Damage elsewhere in the city was spotty.
"We're swamped," said Sweeney about his office answering phone calls and processing licenses and permits. "This could go on until September, easily."
Sweeney said in a normal year his office licenses about 70 roofing contractors, many of whom also do siding and replace windows. About 10 of those only do one job in the city during the year, usually a large commercial project.
The additional contractors are here to do business just because of the storm and are often referred to as "storm chasers."
Sweeney said there is no testing for roofing contractors, but those that seek a license must complete an application with the city and show proof of liability insurance and a bond.
He said residents who are hiring contractors need to make sure they have a license with the city. Without the license, they can't receive a permit.
"Storm chasers has kind of a bad connotation, but they aren't necessarily bad," said Sweeney, adding that he doesn't believe local contractors could keep up with the work necessary to repair the damage to area homes.
"A lot of them are large companies that don't necessarily do work here," he said, adding they see an opportunity when a storm occurs to branch out into the city.
Still, said Sweeney, residents have to be careful when hiring a contractor.
"Homeowners have to cull out the good ones and the bad ones," he said, adding they can do that by talking to neighbors who are having work done.
Sweeney also said the situation is different than it was in 1999 when another large hail storm damaged roofs throughout the city and brought the storm chasers into town.
Back then, he said, there weren't inspections.
Today, he and his part-time inspector, must inspect every job. Prior to the storm and the increased demand, Sweeney said they were inspecting roofing jobs twice, once before any work was completed to tell contractors how much ice shield should be placed on the roof and the second was to make sure contractors followed through with the appropriate required underlayment.
Because of the demand on his office, Sweeney said they have only been able to make the second inspection. However, they are telling contractors how much underlayment to put down when they receive a permit.
Sweeney said he hasn't received any complaints from homeowners so far involving any contractors. He added that contractors often police themselves and sometimes call if office if they see a company not doing something properly.
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