|By Liz Benston, Las Vegas
SunMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
July 23, 2011--MGM Resorts International stopped work on the Strip's Harmon hotel in January 2009 after disclosing that contractors had made significant structural errors, including the improper placement of steel used to hold up the tower. But unclear at the time was whether construction mistakes may have occurred elsewhere in the $8.5 billion
On Friday, MGM Resorts, citing information from Clark County building officials, said the rest of the largest privately funded construction project in the country is structurally sound. That's the conclusion of a verification plan submitted by MGM Resorts and approved by the county.
Engineers hired by MGM Resorts to double-check the work performed by CityCenter contractors have given all of the buildings under review -- except for Harmon -- a clean bill of health, MGM Resorts said.
"Clark County reviewed the results and is satisfied that the other buildings at CityCenter meet code," MGM Resorts spokeswoman Yvette Monet said.
After news of the Harmon's structural problems came to light in 2008, county building officials ordered MGM Resorts to verify that other CityCenter buildings were safe.
In a letter to the county outlining its verification plan, MGM Resorts said its engineers were to perform "X-Ray or electronic imaging" tests on concrete slab floors, columns and walls to determine the placement of steel and other supports. The rebar problems were obscured because they were buried in concrete, building experts said at the time.
The county requested an engineering review of the Aria, Vdara, Mandarin Oriental and Harmon. County officials didn't include the twin Veer towers in their request. Those towers were inspected by Kleinfelder, a different company than the one that missed the errors uncovered at the Harmon.
Converse Consultants performed most of the private inspection work at CityCenter. The engineering firm issued 62 reports stating that the structural steel at the Harmon was built to code. In reality, it was placed improperly on several floors, requiring a costly fix for MGM Resorts.
MGM Resorts cited delays and cost overruns in its decision to halt construction on the Harmon, which sits empty and unfinished at nearly half its original height of 49 stories. In a countersuit filed against CityCenter contractor Perini Building Co. last year, MGM claims the building is unusable and unsafe. An engineer hired by MGM to verify the work at Harmon recently disclosed to the county that the building might not withstand an earthquake.
Perini filed an initial suit against MGM last year for nearly $500 million in unpaid construction work. The contractor says it's able to fix problems at the Harmon but that MGM would rather not complete the building as part of a litigation strategy against Perini. MGM says it has paid most of the bills owed subcontractors.
Engineers and other building experts not involved in the construction of CityCenter say the building -- notwithstanding the problem in marketing a hotel with a error-prone past -- is probably fixable, but at great cost.
Pacific Coast Steel, the subcontractor responsible for the rebar installation at Harmon, also worked on other buildings at CityCenter. The firm was fined by the Nevada State Contractors Board for work at the Harmon.
Although county officials blamed the systemic nature of the problems at the Harmon on two Converse inspectors who signed off on the faulty work, some involved with the inspection process noted that others also are at fault for relying on inspectors who lacked experience. The contractors involved in overseeing the job also would have done their own visual inspections to make sure work was performed properly. Perini was also fined in connection with the Harmon.
County officials won't talk about their conclusions on CityCenter.
County spokeswoman Stacey Welling said it would be inappropriate for the county to comment on CityCenter given pending litigation between Perini and MGM Resorts.
Perini officials couldn't be reached for comment Friday.
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