Some work proves tougher to inspect

Some of the work on the Ipanema tower remodeling at the Rio is no longer visible.

Hidden within walls, or obscured by dropped ceilings or bathroom tile, is work that cannot be inspected without tearing something apart.

Las Vegan Josh Costello, who did demolition and electrical work at the Rio, said he sometimes stood below a driller working on the floor above in order to catch cylindrical slugs of concrete as they fell out of the concrete slab, creating openings for pipes and wiring to pass through.

Such holes need to be "fire stopped" after utilities are run through them so that smoke or fumes can't travel between floors. But Costello claims remodeling workers talked among themselves about a lack of fire caulking for core-drilled holes that are now covered by finishes.

"I never saw a tube of fire caulk until I got to Harrah's" Las Vegas, the Strip property, later as a full-time maintenance employee, Costello said. He has since left the trade for a different line of work.

Another worker, who declined to be named in print, estimated the remodeling entailed about 500 core drills, about 200 on the 19th floor, as well as another 300, about one per guest suite, in the oldest wing of the Ipanema.

Core drilling does not require a permit, but Ron Lynn, director of the county's Development Services, acknowledged that a project involving several hundred core drills that penetrated through slab probably would not be cosmetic in nature.

The same anonymous worker also said he was present at least twice when a core driller accidentally snapped a post-tension cable.

"It sounded like a gun" firing, recalled the man, who said he is willing to be identified only if legal testimony becomes necessary.

During construction, a grid of cables is laid within wet concrete, then the cables are pulled taut and anchored. That system strengthens the concrete and keeps down construction costs by reducing the amount of concrete needed to support a given load.

Brian Grill, who works for Benchmark Consulting Services, and Neil Opfer, who teaches construction management in the engineering school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, responded to a hypothetical question about snapped post-tension cables because X-rays would be needed to verify that any hidden cable has been severed. Both said that, if a post-tension cable is cut, codes require a building owner to consult an engineer to design an element that compensates for the loss of the cable's tension. But the Rio worker involved claims he never saw remediation take place.

Lynn said electrician Fred Frazzetta contacted him in June to discuss potential code violations in the Ipanema tower. Lynn said Frazzetta wanted him to open walls at the Rio to expose completed work that the electrician believed violates the code.

"What you're requesting me to do, I can't do without probable cause," Lynn said he told Frazzetta, and referred him to the civil division of the Clark County district attorney.

"If you got us (Development Services) while they're doing the work (without permits), we're all over them," Lynn later said.