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Perini boss: Let jurors see Harmon hotel

19 July 2012

By Tim O'Reiley

In his trip to the witness stand in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Tutor Perini Building Corp. CEO Craig Shaw mixed jabs at the Harmon Hotel's design with a pitch to let potential jurors see it for themselves.

Testifying during the third day of the Clark County District Court hearing on whether the unfinished piece of CityCenter can be demolished, Shaw was asked to comment on a photo of one small section where concrete had been removed to see what was inside a wall. According to CityCenter attorney Steve Morris, red lines superimposed on the photo depicted steel reinforcement bars called for in blueprints but never installed.

"I think it's a perfect example of where you would love to be able to take a jury out and have them see this specific location," Shaw said. "To be able to take a look at this photograph and see a bunch of chipped concrete always looks terrible. It could be conforming work, it could be nonconforming work ... You can't tell that from the photograph."

Tutor Perini was the general contractor.

The same is true for other photos of the building, he added. It would be difficult for jurors to understand the individual structural elements without seeing them in three dimensions, as well as what surrounds them, he said. For example, he said, knocking off more concrete could uncover more the steel bars.

Irked by Shaw's response, Morris retorted, "So we'll put hard hats on the jury and give them a chipping hammer and some knee pads and say, 'Listen, jury, this is our location ... so get on your hands and knees and beat the concrete to death so we can determine whether Mr. Shaw can make a determination or not."

CityCenter wants Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez to let it raze the building prior to a jury trial, now scheduled for late June, over who should pay for the building's defects. Its engineers have reported that certain critical joints would crumble during a serious earthquake, caused the 26-story Harmon to partially or completely collapse.

Steve Schiller, the president of the engineering firm John A. Martin & Associates of Nevada, testified on Tuesday that the Harmon would survive an earthquake but might sustain so much damage it would not be worth repairing.

Schiller, a Perini expert witness, said the Harmon in its current state would ride out an earthquake as well as many older Strip properties, with new ones performing better and older ones worse. He proposes a $20.4 million repair plan he says would lift the Harmon above average.

"To us, it is absurd to implode a building and create hundreds of millions of dollars of losses" when it can be fixed, Shaw said.

In a statement, CityCenter scoffed at the idea of repairing the tower, on which it spent $279 million before work stopped four years ago.

"The Harmon is not worth millions, it is worth nothing. It is uninhabitable, is a public safety hazard and should be demolished,' said the company, which is jointly owned by MGM Resorts International and Dubai World.

While acknowledging that it should cover some costs, Tutor Perini maintains CityCenter should pay for most of its proposed rescue plan because of design defects.

For example, Shaw said, designers placed too much steel on the end of a column, which needed to be fixed in the field. He also said that some walls were smaller than typical, and speculated CityCenter was trying to "capture every square foot (it) could to sell."

CityCenter, by contrast, has pinned the overwhelming share of the Harmon's shortcomings on shoddy workmanship.


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Tim O'Reiley
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