Tuesday, June 17, 2014

MHBA Fires Off Letter of Protest to Massachusetts Governor

Most of the time I comment when I publish a letter or announcement but not this time. The letter speaks for every modular home builder and modular factory in the US, not just the ones in MA.

June 16, 2014

The Honorable Deval Patrick, Governor
Western Massachusetts Office of the Governor
State Office Building
436 Dwight Street Suite 300
Springfield, MA 01103

Re: Opposing Reappointment of Kevin Gallagher to B.B.R.S.

Governor Patrick,

After what can only be described as years of frustration, our industry would like to express our opposition to the possible reappointment of Kevin Gallagher for a second five-year term on the Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS).  Mr. Gallagher’s term is set to expire on July 1 of this year.

As the director of the only national trade association serving the modular home industry, I work with state administrative agencies and boards in about thirty-five states.   I can say unequivocally that Massachusetts ranks among the most problematic states for this industry to conduct business.

While our working relationship with the state Manufactured Building Program and its Director Steve Kennealy are positive and productive, there is a toxic relationship with the actual BBRS.  This is primarily due to one person, Mr. Gallagher, and his efforts to undermine and misinform the public about our industry at every opportunity.   For the past several years, Mr. Gallagher has literally gone on a public campaign against the modular home industry, writing guest articles for magazines and accepting speaking opportunities at out of state conference.  His entire anti-industry campaign is based solely on his observations while watching a modular home burn in Acushnet in 2008.

He has since had the building codes amended once at a cost of about $500 per home and has recently tried to implement another change specifically targeting our industry, which would add about another $500 per home.  He has demanded that our industry “prove our innocence” by demonstrating that our homes are safe and code compliant, despite the fact that our homes have more rigorous testing and oversight than conventional homes and very few customer complaints have been made against the industry.  Modular homes are built to the same local codes as conventional homes, just constructed off site in components or modules before arriving to the final site.

To date, we estimate that Mr. Gallagher has directly cost this industry over $100,000 in testing and unnecessary code changes and undeterminable amounts in lost revenue as a result of his campaign.  We have considered filing ethics charges against Mr. Gallagher but felt that it might be more prudent and less public if he simply were not reappointed. 

I am including the text of one potential customer to demonstrate how this state representative’s actions are costing our industry revenue opportunities based on nothing more than his observations.  This is an email excerpt from a potential customer to a modular home builder in Massachusetts:

…. I feel that I've done enough research to feel comfortable, and thank you for taking the time to explain things to me.  However, my wife's family are not the easiest to convince.  As we are discussing moving out, they are finding all sorts of scare tactics, and I am feeling that I am fighting this uphill battle at home of why going modular is the better way.  I need hard evidence to be able to defend my decision.   Anyhow, I know you can help me find concrete data proving that all the above issues can be addressed. 1)  for fire safety, I read somewhere that after the Acusnet fire, state of MA end up changing the codes for modular built, where the boxes and the roof are all screwed, nailed together, instead of using the foam adhesive.  Is that true?  

To be clear, our industry is proud of its track record and working relationship with most in the state and have no problem being held to the SAME standards as conventional site built homes. But we are not being held to the same standards as no such onerous demands are being made of contractors who build using more conventional methods.

The sad and ironic part of this whole situation is that the state of Massachusetts is truly a hotbed of innovation and research for modular and offsite construction with numerous leading architects, academics, and contractors.  The modular construction industry is on the front end of leading the change towards greater innovation, less waste, more worker productivity, and greater worker safety.  And your State is well-positioned to be a national leader in this regard.  But Massachusetts will never be at the forefront of leading this movement towards a more efficient construction process while this stifling anti-industry sentiment exists within the board.

We cannot grow in such a hostile regulatory system as exists now and we urge you not to reappoint Kevin Gallagher to the BBRS as a first step towards greater collaboration and growth.  Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions regarding this request.  I can be reached by email at tom@modularhousing.com or by phone at 717-469-5493.  Thank you so much for considering this request.

Tom Hardiman,
 Executive Director         


Cc:          Thomas Gatzunis, Secretary of Public Safety

Robert Anderson, Chief of Inspections


David E. Johnson - Ritz Craft Custom Homes said...

AMEN Brother, AMEN.

Anonymous said...

Well said. I know we feel the ripple effect of Mr. Gallagher's wrath here in Maine. Many of the second home buyers we build for are from Massachusetts.