North Las Vegas’ Fire Station 53 was fewer than 10 years old when it started sinking.
Now the city’s effort to recoup its repair costs is mired in a legal battle with the contractors and design professionals behind the building.
“It’s been a disaster,” Fire Chief Joseph Calhoun said of the issues with the building that sits on the northeast corner of Simmons Street and Gowan Road.
Station 53 has already undergone months of repairs, Calhoun said. He expects the project to be complete within the next three months.
The problems with the station required workers to spend about two weeks lifting the eastern portion of the building about eight inches, Calhoun said. Workers also leveled the floors by drilling holes into them and filling the space underneath with foam.
“The place was just covered in dust for weeks and weeks,” Calhoun said.
Red tape in the kitchen marks where the floor is uneven. A crack is visible between the garage and the rest of the building. Dirt is piled in front of the station.
To keep the station in service, firefighters went months without the building being connected to gas, forcing crews to use space heaters to keep warm.
Station 53 responds to about 10 calls per day, Calhoun said.
City Manager Ryann Juden said expansive soils are the culprit for the drooping firehouse.
In July, North Las Vegas filed a lawsuit in Clark County District Court against multiple defendants, including Richardson Construction. A lawyer for the construction company did not return a reporter’s phone call.
Though the soils are the primary issue, the city is suing multiple defendants because it doesn’t know the extent of the defects, according to Richard Gordon of the law firm Snell & Wilmer, which is representing the city in the case.
“You want to make sure all the parties who could be responsible are brought into the case,” Gordon said.
When the fire station was completed in 2009, the deadline to file a complaint about construction defects was 10 years, Gordon said. That deadline was shortened in 2015 to six years. Then, in 2019, legislators returned the deadline to 10 years and made it retroactive, largely because of soil-related defects to buildings, Gordon said.
“Soils issues usually manifest later and after that six-year window,” Gordon said.
The defendants, he said, argued that the six-year deadline applied in this instance because the new law did not take effect until Oct. 1 of last year.
There is no set dollar amount for the damages the city is seeking, Gordon said.
On Sept. 30, a judge granted a motion to dismiss the case because it was filed before the Oct. 1 effective date of the law restoring the 10-year statute, Gordon said. But North Las Vegas filed a motion to alter the judgment after the law changed. A hearing was held Tuesday and Gordon said he anticipates a ruling within a week.
To date, North Las Vegas has spent more than $1 million on repairing Station 53, and costs could reach to about $2 million, Juden said. That’s money that he said could have been used for other city services.
“It’s a lot of money that we’re spending on a perfectly new building, just not perfectly well-built,” he said.