Las Vegas Sun

October 18, 2017

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Easing up on oversight?

County should make sure building inspectors are paying close attention to violations

Clark County building inspectors were recently told to rely more on verbal communication than to immediately write correction notices and notices of violation at the massive CityCenter project.

As Alexandra Berzon reported in Thursday’s Las Vegas Sun, one source said the message was loud and clear: Back off. That came as a surprise considering the problems with construction on the Strip. County-contracted building inspectors failed to catch serious mistakes at the Harmon building, which is part of MGM Mirage’s massive CityCenter project. Not only did those inspectors fail to catch the problems, but so did the county’s supervisors.

A project engineer found the building riddled with errors that resulted in serious structural problems. MGM Mirage decided to shorten the building, going only about half as high as planned, to solve the problem.

Ron Lynn, the county’s director of development services, said inspectors were given “guidance” on county policies. He said they were not told to back off, be less aggressive or not write up notices when they find problems. He said some of the notices inspectors were writing were overly broad and didn’t address specifics.

But if inspectors think that means that they should issue only verbal warnings, particularly on a project the size of CityCenter, that could pose a real problem. Neil Opfer, an assistant professor of construction management at UNLV, said written notices help ensure mistakes are corrected.

“If it’s just a verbal instruction, then that could fall through the cracks,” he said. “We write things down so we remember them later. If we eliminate the written record, it seems that could be problematic.”

Given the recent construction problems, inspectors should be paying close attention to the work at CityCenter. Code violations could lead to fatal accidents, and the county should do all it can to make sure the work is being done correctly.

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