Tuesday, July 29, 2008 | 2 a.m.
Elevator outages at the Regional Justice Center are less frequent today than earlier this year, a trend county officials hope will continue as they segue Friday to a new maintenance company that will manage the lifts.
The county opted not to extend its annual $221,500 contract with Schindler Elevator Corp., which expires Thursday evening. That contract, county officials came to realize, was peppered with ambiguities and lacked sufficient controls to ensure accountability when elevators didn’t work at the courthouse.
The county has written tougher specifications into its new maintenance contract, said Michael Green, assistant director of the county’s Real Property Management Division.
The frequency of breakdowns has exasperated court officials, potential jurists and attorneys — many of whom regularly wait 20 minutes during the morning rush at the justice center to get on an elevator. As recently as last week, judges complained about the unreliable lifts, but the county’s Real Property Management Division “assured them that changes were being made,” court spokesman Michael Sommermeyer says.
All elevators at Clark County’s courthouse are vulnerable to breakdowns, not just the public’s six lifts. (The $185 million, 2 1/2-year-old courthouse famously has been beset by problems, including funky smells in the basement, cost overruns during construction and broken down boilers).
Through last summer, judges and the accused occasionally had to share elevators because a lift or two was down. Bailiffs worried the inmates might use the slack from their shackles to strangle adjudicators. A policy now requires the judges to cede one of their two lifts to inmates if a transport to the basement holding area is out of service.
Earlier this year, the failure rates of the lifts exceeded national standards, roughly 60 days between failures, Green says.
“We were down to less than 30 days (between problems) at the courthouse,” he says. “The rest of the county was fine, way in excess of national standards.”
The new contract requires that the maintenance company respond to emergencies at the courthouse within the hour, and to other problems before 7 a.m. the next day.
Schindler was among four companies that bid on the new contract.
Schindler proposed the lowest bid, at almost $275,000 annually, but the county commissioners July 15 accepted the next-lowest offer: $310,500 from Nevada Elevator Co., also referred to as Otis Elevator Co. Schindler did not complete documentation, according to a county report.
Scott Buttler, Schindler’s Las Vegas manager, said some of the required documentation was “too subjective.”
Unlike Schindler, Nevada Elevator will handle all the county’s lifts, including at the detention center and the office complex. And with Nevada Elevator managing all three buildings, staffers there will report to a project manager at each site — another attempt at improved accountability.