Construction workers housing lacks occupancy certificate

Deplorable unsanitary conditions also reported at renovated factory
A photo of one of the rooms at a renovated garment factory in Tanapag that was used as housing for some construction workers engaged in the building of Imperial Pacific’s ongoing casino/resort project in Garapan. The Department of Public Works filed a court action last month against Castle Projects for allowing the workers to occupy the building despite two notices of violation for lack of occupancy certification and deplorable unsanitary and dangerous conditions. (DPW)

A photo of one of the rooms at a renovated garment factory in Tanapag that was used as housing for some construction workers engaged in the building of Imperial Pacific’s ongoing casino/resort project in Garapan. The Department of Public Works filed a court action last month against Castle Projects for allowing the workers to occupy the building despite two notices of violation for lack of occupancy certification and deplorable unsanitary and dangerous conditions. (DPW)

A number of construction workers at Imperial Pacific Resort’s ongoing project in Garapan have been housed in a renovated garment factory in Tanapag despite two notices of violation issued by the Department of Public Works.

The citations are for occupying the building without obtaining certificate of occupancy and failing to address deplorable unsanitary and dangerous conditions.

This prompted the CNMI government, through DPW acting Building Safety official Casiano M. Bostre, to file a court action last month against Castle Projects (CNMI) LLC, which holds a long-term interest in the former garment factory building in Tanapag, according to court documents obtained by Saipan Tribune.

At a hearing last March 17, Castle Projects, represented by counsel Michael W. Dotts, admitted that its former management violated the Building Safety Code when individuals were allowed to stay before a certificate of occupancy had been issued.

Castle Projects also admitted that the company had been issued notices of violation on Dec. 5, 2016 and Feb. 22, 2017.

Castle Projects agreed to voluntarily vacate the building by March 20, 2017 at 4pm and promised not to re-occupy the building until it received a certificate of occupancy.

At the continuation of the hearing last March 20, the parties informed the court that Castle Projects had vacated the building as agreed.

Assistant attorney general Matthew J. Pugh, counsel for Bostre, agreed to withdraw its motion for emergency ex parte temporary restraining order and motion for preliminary injunction in exchange for Castle Projects vacating the building and agreeing to obtain a certificate of occupancy prior to occupying the housing again.

Pursuant to the parties’ agreement, Superior Court Associate Judge Teresa Kim-Tenorio that same day ordered that Bostre’s motions are withdrawn.

In his affidavit in support of the motions, Bostre said that in February 2016, the Commonwealth Zoning Board approved Castle Projects’ conditional use permit for the renovation of a structure known as “Building B.”

Bostre disclosed that on Dec. 5, 2016, DPW issued a notice of violation to Castle Projects for violation of the Building Safety Code for failing to comply with electrical inspection requirements and failing to obtain a certificate of occupancy for the building prior to allowing occupation.

He said that on Dec. 15, 2016, DPW returned to the site for a follow-up inspection and then created an inspection report and noted that the as-built design for the project did not comply with the approved plans, incorrect materials were used in construction, revised plans were needed, and additional testing of the plumbing was needed.

Bostre said DPW provided Castle Projects 30 days to correct the deficiencies, but the company failed to do it.

On Feb. 22, 2017, DPW issued a second notice of violation to Castle Projects for same violations and granted the company 10 days to resolve the issues.

Bostre sought the assistance of the Office of the Attorney General in filing the court action last March 17 after more than 10 days had passed since the issuance of second notice of violation and the company continues to occupy and use Building B in violation of the Building Safety Code.

The DPW official said Castle Projects’ violations of the Building Safety Code present a number of safety hazards to the occupants of the building.

He said in addition to the problem with the electrical and plumbing in the building, DPW observed a wall constructed of concrete blocks at the site that is severely leaning to one side and could fall over at any time.

On more than one occasion, Castle Projects has caused untreated human waste to be discharged upon the site and upon adjacent premises.

Bostre said Building B is maintained in an unsanitary and unsafe manner and the company has not addressed these dangerous conditions.

Bostre submitted in court several photographs depicting these conditions.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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