Harrah’s gets more time from county to fix work

The county’s building division recently gave Harrah’s Entertainment another month to correct substandard or undocumented remodeling at its Strip property, Harrah’s Las Vegas. It is customary for the county to extend deadlines when property owners are making progress at fixing code violations but can’t comply in 30 days, a county spokeswoman said.

"In all these notices of violation, we are working very hard and very cooperatively to address the issues as quickly as possible," said Marybel Batjer, a spokeswoman for Harrah’s entertainment.

"Harrah’s di d not ask" for the extension, Stacey Welling, Clark County public information analyst, said. "In this case, you have a pretty significant process going on. … Given the scope, it’s not surprising we would have to grant the extension."

When a property owner resists making repairs, the county doesn’t grant extensions but issues citations to ratchet up the pressure, Welling explained.

Harrah’s Entertainment admitted on Oct. 8 that improper remodeling needed to be investigated at Harrah’s Las Vegas. That day it voluntarily shut down more than 600 guest rooms at the hotel for investigation and repairs.

The action at Harrah’s Las Vegas followed a county order on Oct. 5 to vacate 140 guest rooms at a sister property, the Rio, in order to assess the extent of remodel work there that evaded legal requirements.

On Nov. 2, Harrah’s Las Vegas returned to guest use a block of 501 rooms on floors 4 through 19 of the Carnivale tower, which underwent repairs and passed county building inspections. A smaller number of rooms at the Rio also passed inspections and returned to service.

Exploratory work and corrective construction continue in other locations at Harrah’s Las Vegas. The violation notices that were recently renewed — and will expire Dec. 20 — pertain to many areas of the hotel: a piano bar on the casino level; floors 19 through 23 of Harrah’s north Mardi Gras tower; floor 35 of the south Carnivale tower, offices for human resources, risk management, security, surveillance, training; and a sewage pump room in one basement.

County commissioners in early November OK’d a contract for Kessler International to audit the process by which the county building division handles complaints. A former remodel worker at the Rio alleged illegal remodeling in a complaint he filed in August 2006. The division did nothing until February 2007, when an inspector visited the Rio, then wrote a four-paragraph report the same day, dismissing the complaint.

Official reports from the county building division and county fire department document the irregularities that investigators have uncovered since early October at Harrah’s Las Vegas, either in construction or in its fire protection systems.

Batjer, who is Harrah’s Entertainment vice president of public policy and communications, asked that the violations be viewed in the context of a multi-layered safety system that includes the alarms, sprinklers, fire-smoke control and fire-rated walls.

"They’re all put in place to act as redundancies," she explained. "If there is one item, a sprinkler head, that is not properly in place, there are other things built within that redundant system that would mitigate that issue. It is a system that in its entirety is functioning, although at times there is something within that system that is malfunctioning."

Unless otherwise labeled, the items listed below are contained in reports filed by the building division of Clark County Development Services. The division is tracking the hotel’s violations from discovery through remediation. The remediation process includes getting approval of required plans, receiving permits, performing work and passing inspections.

Reports are ordered from newest to oldest. Text in parentheses provides further explanation not contained in the report.

•In the hotel’s north Carnivale tower, on floor 35 and odd-numbered rooms on floors 30-34, "hotel suite renovation done without approved plans, permits or inspections." Nov. 8 notice of violation.

•On floors 19-23 of Mardi Gras tower at Harrah’s Las Vegas, "identify and verify all core-drilled holes and hammered holes to address cut rebar (and post-tension) cables and exposed rebar-cables." Nov. 7 correction notice. (Such concrete-embedded cables or bars are a construction method that strengthens concrete.)

•On same floors, 19-23, "missing firestop at all floor and corridor wall penetrations." Nov. 7 correction notice. (When openings aren’t properly sealed, a fire’s heat or smoke can travel to new areas in a building.)

•On same floors, 19-23, two-hour fire rating for stair enclosure is compromised by treatment of nearby shower valves. Nov. 7 correction notice.

•On same floors, 19-23, a number of defects affecting fire dampers exist. "Clean debris from all fire dampers," one report reads. "Missing fire dampers at fresh air shafts." Also, in certain corridors, "fire dampers not in rating or properly secured." Inspector orders hotel to "provide full access to all dampers throughout rooms and corridor." Nov. 7 correction notice. (Dampers are a key tool in containing a highrise fire. They can stop smoke from spreading, or deprive a fire of oxygen.)

•On same floors, 19-23, "non-fire-treated wood used to support spas and tubs, and plywood used as tile backer at raised tubs." Nov. 7 correction notice.

•On same floors, 19-23, "GFI all spa tub motor circuits and … all bathroom outlets and lights within tub zone." Nov. 7 correction notice. (A ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) device prevents electric shock, in instances such as a hair dryer falling into a sink of water.)

•On same floors, 19-23, plumbing fixtures lack proper venting and proper supports. Nov. 7 correction notice.

•In the casino’s Total Rewards area for frequent and loyal players, a "temporary construction wall erected without approved plan or permit." Nov. 1 notice of violation.

•In the north Carnivale tower, replace multiple sprinkler heads because they are either too close to wall, covered with paint or corroded. Oct. 29 fire department inspection record.

•"Casino-level piano bar renovated without approved plans, permits and inspections." Oct. 20 notice of violation.

•In piano bar area, automatic shut-offs not installed at new air-handler units. In equipment room, branch circuit conductors not installed in approved raceway. Oct. 20 correction notice. (Shut-offs detect presence of smoke, to stop an air handler from sending smoke-laden air to a new area of a building. A raceway is a track for cables, so that wiring doesn’t accidentally get cut or pulled, which can stop equipment or systems from functioning.)

•In a hotel basement, office space for risk management and security "renovated without approved plans, permits or inspections." Oct. 20 notice of violation.

•In the hotel’s north Mardi Gras tower, floors 19-23, "hotel suite renovation done without approved plans, permits or inspections." Oct. 20 notice of violation.

•On hotel’s second floor, a training room and sewing room "renovated without approved plans, permits and inspections." Oct. 20 notice of violation.

•"Cease and desist all alterations, removal, tempering and modifying of all life safety systems without an approved set of plans and permit" from fire department. Oct. 19 fire department inspection record.

•On the hotel’s second floor, surveillance "equipment room renovated without approved plans, permits and inspections." Oct. 19 notice of violation.

•In hotel’s surveillance area, "electrical boxes not properly installed and supported." Primary power conductors not installed in approved raceway. Notice orders the hotel to either use low-voltage wiring in an approved raceway, or terminate wires on an approved board. Among other electrical deficiencies, lighting fixtures and power to fixtures not installed to minimum code requirement. Metal electrical boxes not grounded. Oct. 19 correction notice.

•On second and third floors, human resources "office renovated without approved plans, permits and inspections." Oct. 19 notices of violation.

•In third-floor office space, corridor walls have lost fire rating due to penetrations. Required fire-related precautions are missing, including fire-rated doors, smoke seals for doors and fire-rated door sweeps. "Suspended ceiling throughout does not comply" with current code requirements. Electrical room lacks fire-rated enclosure with no penetrations. No back-up power supply for exit signs. "Emergency lighting required throughout, at corridors and … (exit) paths." Oct. 19 correction notice.

•In sewage ejector pump room in basement, "exhaust fans and ducts installed without approved plans, permits or inspections." Oct. 18 notice of violation.

•In the same basement area, fireproofing is missing on beams. Oct. 18 correction notice.

•"Hotel suite renovation done without approved plans, permits or inspections" in south Carnivale tower, on floor 35. Oct. 18 notice of violation.

•In north Carnivale tower, cut rebar or post-tension cable on 31st floor requires verification by studying floor cores. Oct. 17 correction notice.

•In north Carnivale tower, in even-number rooms on floors 30-34, no access provided to spa tub motors or to certain electrical junction boxes. Other electric deficiencies: Spa tubs lack ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) devices; lights within tub zones lack GFCI devices. Oct. 17 correction notice.

•In north Carnivale tower, in even-number rooms on floors 30-34, plumbing problem include: waste system with "back-graded" piping in spots; uninsulated hot water lines; abandoned piping in walls that needs to be eliminated or firestopped; waste and water pipes not properly supported. Oct. 17 correction notice. (Back-grading of pipes forces waste to flow level or flow uphill — against gravity — which leads to blockages.)

•In north Carnivale tower, in even-number rooms on floors 30-34, holes through fire-resistive walls or floors need firestopping, including: party walls between guest suites; where new wall outlets were added; where conduit was removed; for penetrations into chase that holds pipes for waste and water; where doors were removed; where soffits were added at doors; where exhaust duct was added to exhaust shaft. Oct. 17 correction notice.

•Suite and guest room "renovation done without approved plans, permits or inspections" in north Carnivale tower, floors 30-34, even-number rooms. Oct. 15 notice of violation.

•In offices that house payroll, human resources, accounting, marketing and surveillance, "All these areas had various violations from fire alarms, sprinkler, penetrations in 1-hour separations, no plans." Oct. 13 Clark County Fire Department inspection record.

•In Harrah’s Carnivale and Mardi Gras towers, "check/redraw fire alarm plans. Submit … for approval. FIre alarm shall be monitored on 24-hour basis." Oct. 12 Clark County Fire Department inspection record.

•In north Carnivale tower, floors 4-18, "properly close all one-hour (fire rated) party walls between rooms and soffits. Firestop all slab penetrations. Firestop all sprinkler line penetrations that were extended through wall." Firestopping was ordered, as well, for floor penetrations in handicap bathrooms as well as for openings between guest rooms and maid rooms or electrical rooms. Oct. 12 correction notice.

•"Hotel room renovation done without approved, plans, permits or inspections" in Harrah’s Las Vegas’ north Carnivale tower, floors 4-18. Oct. 11 notice of violation.

Contact reporter Joan Whitely at jwhitely@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-0268.

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