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Joan Whitely

MGM Mirage ordered to recheck CityCenter inspections

9 February 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Clark County hasn't figured out how construction errors occurred at CityCenter's Harmon Hotel. But it has ordered MGM-Mirage, owner of the development, to have an approved expert recheck any other work done there by Converse Consultants, whose special inspections failed to document errors in 15 of the 22 stories built so far at the Harmon.

"There were 62 reports (by Converse) that later proved to be incorrect," said Phil Rosenquist, an assistant county manager.

He declined to say that incompetence or deceit produced the erroneous reports, which repeatedly stated that faulty work at Harmon was "in substantial compliance" with approved building plans.

Converse also has contracts to inspect portions of CityCenter's Mandarin, Veer and Vdara towers.

The sickly economy plus the cost of fixing the Harmon errors have led MGM-Mirage to cancel the upper condominium portion of the building, although it anchors a prominent corner: the Strip at Harmon Avenue.

MGM's decision lops off almost half of the uncompleted tower's final height. It will be 28 stories tall, instead of 49.

"It is still a work in progress," is how MGM-Mirage spokesman Gordon Absher described the process of revising the hotel's silhouette. "We have some of the best architects and designers in the world working on CityCenter. We're confident in their ability to work in the situation and conditions we have."

Upward construction of the Harmon has been on hold at the 22nd floor since early autumn, while teams diagnosed the extent of problems and are now executing repairs prescribed by Halcrow & Yolles.

That firm is the engineer of record, as well as the party that detected errors after Converse had signed off.

The Harmon errors involved incorrrect placement of reinforcing steel in the concrete of "link beams," which strengthen walls at openings, such as doors.

The errors affected the building's stability in the face of "sideways" forces such as high winds or earthquakes.

In reaction to the errors at the Harmon, the county has filed a complaint with the State Board of Engineers and Land Surveyors against Converse.

The county also has filed complaints with the State Contractors Board against Perini Building Co., the general contractor for CityCenter, and against Pacific Coast Steel, a subcontractor who did the faulty work.

In September, Perini's chief executive officer, Craig Shaw, said the faulty work might have been a solution to a design conflict.

Building plans sometimes show that at least two distinct items, such as a vertical pipe and a horizontal piece of metal, are supposed to, impossibly, occupy the same space.

Design conflicts occur in most complex projects, architects and engineers told the Review-Journal, so there is a formal process to devise and document solutions. But Thursday, Rosenquist said the county has found no evidence that the errors were attempts to solve design conflicts.

Perini spokeswoman Lesley Pittman said Thursday that company officials continue to believe design conflicts were involved.

Beyond filing the complaints, Clark County also has banned the two Converse employees who filed the 62 false reports from doing special inspections in its jurisdiction, Rosenquist said. The county also has levied more than $20,000 in penalties.

To date, Converse has paid the $16,500 it owes, and inspector Joseph Laurente has paid a $1,125 fee. Inspector Scott Edberg has not paid the $3,525 he was assessed, county spokesman Dan Kulin said Thursday.

According to Rosenquist, the county's next act, by building code, is to select a representative to have a hearing at which Converse and the inspectors can air their positions.

County officials have not yet appointed a hearing officer or set a hearing date.

Special inspectors are third parties hired by a project to inspect highly technical aspects of construction, including welding, structural bolting and high-strength concrete, on behalf of a government.

Under this system, which is widely used throughout the United States, governments such as Clark County typically provide inspectors who monitor less technical aspects of construction projects, such as electrical, plumbing and mechanical work.

MGM Mirage ordered to recheck CityCenter inspections is republished from