But CCC executive director says building’s structural integrity issue old story
Describing it as a project in serious trouble, Sen. Paul A. Manglona (Ind-Rota) yesterday urged the Commonwealth Casino Commission to immediately conduct a total assessment of the Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC’s ongoing construction of a casino/resort in Garapan to guarantee the building’s structural integrity.
During public comments during CCC’s regular monthly meeting in the conference room of CHCC at the Springs Plaza in Gualo Rai, Manglona said the Development Plan Advisory Committee is in the best position to provide with the assessment of the project, in which its implementation “is way behind schedule.”
Asked for comments about the senator’s recommendation, CCC executive director Edward Deleon Guerrero said the issue of the Imperial Palace Saipan building’s structural integrity is an old story for CCC.
“When we started three, four years ago, there was a rumor that they were constructing it before anybody [can inspect it] on site, the building is unsafe, the building is leaning. We found out that all of those are not true,” Deleon Guerrero said.
Manglona said DPAC was originally established under the Casino License Agreement to review and advise on the design of the Integrated Resorts and the Initial Gaming Facility.
He said DPAC is required to report regularly on the status of IPI’s casino project to the Governor’s Office.
Manglona said the Casino License Agreement states that there shall be two members of DPAC, one selected by IPI and the other appointed by the governor.
He said both members are either an architect or engineering firm experienced in the Integrated Resort Development.
The senator said the CLA provides that all reasonable CNMI costs up to $400,000 shall be paid by the licensee IPI.
Manglona inquired about an update on the establishment and contract of DPAC if it is true that it is no longer in operation today.
In the absence of DPAC, he asked how CCC presently addressing DPAC’s authorities and responsibilities.
“We absolutely need to have forensic evidence and design as to the corrective measures necessary to move forward with the project,” the senator said.
Manglona said the assessment should require the engineer of record to conduct a forensic survey of the project to include three aspects.
He said one is the building’s actual structural construction to ensure that if there are major structural misalignments or defects, building design calculations are computed factoring in the actual field conditions.
Second, he said, all certifications of concrete tests and column and beam connections such as weldings and bolts must be assessed to ensure satisfaction of strength and torque requirements.
Manglona said the third one is the geotechnical pile certification and testing to ensure the building structure’s foundation integrity and that no ground settlement will occur in the future.
The assessment process, the senator pointed out, will benefit both IPI and the CNMI government.
He said it will help IPI in their efforts to get new partners for additional funding by reassuring new investors that the building is structurally sound and will last for more than 40 to 50 years.
Manglona said it will benefit the CNMI people, who are the real owners, if for some reason IPI cannot finish the project and that there is a need to lease the property to another developer.
“Without such an assessment, it might be impossible to find another investor with all the uncertainties surrounding the building’s structural integrity,” he said.
The lawmaker told the commissioners that the people of the CNMI want to see the project come to fruition as it will bring much needed financial stability to the CNMI’s struggling economy.
Manglona said no one has a firm idea of when the project will be completed and may give up on trying to guess.
He said it may be that this project has numerous defects that need to be cured and addressed.
“There is no question that IPI has lost its ability to control progress or even to ascertain the project’s status with accuracy,” he said.
Manglona said dozens of vendors are bringing or considering legal actions against IPI for nonpayment of contracts or services, and there has been a significant number of upper management level employee turnover in the last few years.
He said DPAC reports on project recommendations were ignored.
“All of these characteristics point to a project in serious trouble,” Manglona said.
Deleon Guerrero said they actually called in members of the Department of Public Works Technical Division and N15 Architects.
He said N15 Architects is the party contracted by IPI to make sure that they meet all the DPW technical requirements.
Deleon Guerrero said they also called in inspectors from J.M. Aquino Engineering, which is the third party structure engineers.
He said they found out that where IPI is required a certain weight of rebars, they actually put a bigger one and that according to the engineers of J.M. Aquino, is overly build or other words above specifications.
“The issue of the building leaning is untrue,” the executive director said.
On DPAC, Deleon Guerrero said DPAC group no longer joins them.
He said there was an issue of if they are really still needed at this point because there is a multi-department involvement in the project.
“DPAC is like the government’s way of seeing this is our eyes and ears to the governor,” he said.
He said DPW is the main department that oversees the structural and the building code itself.
“They are on top of this,” Deleon Guerrero said.
He noted that one of the amendments to the casino agreement require that IPI works with DPW on a weekly basis, to make sure that every phase of this project is cleared with DPW.
“This is a multi-jurisdictional project,” he said, adding that Zoning Board is also involved in monitoring.