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LAS VEGAS-It was not simply an accident that Clark County-approved private inspectors did not report mislaid reinforcing steel that doomed the upper floors of the Harmon hotel tower at MGM’s $8.4-billion CityCenter development, according to an administrative hearings officer. Responding to a request for judgment from Clark County, hearings’ officer Charles Thomas determined that the third-party inspectors who signed dozens of documents saying the rebar was placed properly were not conducting thorough inspections.

The third-party inspectors were hired by Converse Consultants, the Monrovia, CA-based firm the county hired to oversee inspections on its behalf. The officer’s report is part of the county’s review of whether it should keep the consultancy that hired the inspectors on its list of qualified inspection services. The report states among other things that Converse Consultants did not provide proof that the third-party inspectors were experienced in such inspections and did not have proper oversight.

“Converse’s assumption that the Assigned Special Inspectors erred in their individual inspections is not correct,” states the hearings officer. “Based upon the fact that not one [Non-Compliance Report] was issued by the Special Inspectors on the steel reinforcement on levels 5 through 15 and that 276 [Non-Compliance Reports] were written by Converse’s inspectors after the fact on the same levels, the Hearing Officer’s conclusion is that thorough inspections on the link beams were not conducted by the Special Inspectors.”

A source with the county tells GlobeSt.com that the scope of the hearing was limited to Converse’s performance related to the 62 daily inspection reports that Converse-hired inspectors Scott Edberg and Joseph Glenn Laurente had signed, stating they had observed and approved reinforcing steel work at the Harmon. Converse Consultants has 10 calendar days from July 23 to appeal the recommendation. If it does not, the proposed order will become effective. Converse Consultants declined comment.

The initial recommended punishment for Converse Consultants was the suspension of its Quality Assurance Agency qualification until all 276 NCRs issued regarding the link beams within Harmon Tower are cleared by the county building department. A subsequent clarification determined that the punishment would not affect contracts in place prior to July 17 and would only apply to new reinforced concrete inspection contracts for Clark County. The recommended punishment for the inspectors is for Edberg to have his Special Inspector qualification revoked and for Laurente’s qualification to be suspended until he is re-qualified.

“The actions by the contractors [who actually made the mistakes] was not a matter before the county hearings officer,” the County source tells GlobeSt.com. “The County has complained to the contractors’ board and the engineers’ board–the entities that monitor contractors–so it’s up to them to decide what penalties might need to occur [with regard to the contractors].”

The reinforcing steel was installed by Pacific Coast Steel, whose legal counsel David Perkins declined comment. In April, Pacific Coast Steel agreed to pay approximately $14,000 in administrative fees to the Nevada Contractors Board as part of a post-investigation settlement in which it did not admit fault.

The problem with the reinforced steel stalled the construction of the would-have-been 49-story hotel and condominium tower, which would have been done by now had it remained on schedule. The subsequent recession combined with the cost to completely fix the rebar prompted MGM Mirage to kill the 200 condominiums planned for the upper floors and shrink the building by 18 floors to 21 floors, MGM senior vice president Alan Feldman tells GlobeSt.com.

“There is a certain amount of [the link beam rebar work] that has to be fixed,” Feldman says. “In order to [have more stories than now planned] would have required a much bigger fix.”

The new opening date for the Harmon Hotel is approximately one year from now. The rest of the multi-tower, 17-million-square-foot CityCenter project is on track to open during the fourth quarter.

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