Wednesday, July 18, 2012

SAN BERNARDINO: Grand jury says close community center

BY CASSIE MACDUFF - The Press Enterprise

The Verdemont Community Center in northern San Bernardino should be closed until it complies with building and fire codes, the San Bernardino County grand jury recommended in a recently released report.

The community center, made of six modular units, was built without initial building permits or subsequent construction inspections required by city and state codes, the grand jury found.

Serious structural problems were noted after the center opened last summer:
The modular structure isn’t properly attached to steel piers supporting the floor, the grand jury said.

A gas commercial grill was installed without a vent and fire-protection system required by the California Fire Code, the report said.

Three of six air-conditioning/heating units weren’t working, and the air ducts didn’t conduct air properly.

I called Councilman Chas Kelley, who was instrumental in securing $500,000 to build the community center in his ward, to get his reaction to the report.

He hadn’t read it, but he assured me city officials are addressing the problems.
“If it weren’t safe, they would close it as they closed the Rudy Hernandez Center,” Kelley said. That center was closed last fall when the roof was deemed unsafe.

Kelley referred me to the city parks and community development departments. Officials there didn’t return calls on Tuesday, July 3.

The interim city manager, interim public works director and mayor also could not be reached for comment before the July 4th holiday.

I first learned of the slipshod condition of the Verdemont Community Center in January, when some of the volunteers who helped run it voiced their concerns.

I reviewed public records at City Hall and discovered the center had opened without the required certificate of occupancy, a violation of the city’s own rules.

A memo from a building inspection supervisor in December noted 37 “deficiencies” and said there could be more that were covered up.

City officials said the problems were not life-threatening, so the center was allowed to remain open.

My column apparently prompted the grand jury investigation in May.

A city building inspector had discovered the center under construction without required permits and issued a stop-work order, the grand jury reported.

After a permit was issued, required inspections of the substructure, wiring and other elements weren’t done before flooring, dry wall and ceiling tiles were installed.

City officials at the time blamed the project manager but acknowledged the city was going to have to foot the bill for the repairs.

The repairs still had not been done when the grand jury visited on May 3.

Councilman Fred Shorett said he hadn’t read the report but predicted, “I don’t think we’ve seen the end of the issues that are going to come out of that center.”

The episode is an embarrassment to the city. How can it demand that builders comply with codes and regulations, when the city itself fails to comply with them?

No comments: