AP NEWS

Violations halt work at hotel

February 28, 2019

Work on a new Fort Wayne hotel has been halted after county building inspectors found substandard construction materials and methods and improperly credentialed workers.

A stop-work order is now in place at 5950 Cross Creek Boulevard, off Lima Road in Washington Township. The site is just north of the Cross Creek Boulevard and West Washington Center Road intersection, west of Lima Road and south of the Meijer/Home Depot shopping center.

The hotel was identified in planning documents as a Sleep Inn/Mainstay Suites, owned by Raj Patel Inc. of Fort Wayne. Building permits show the hotel’s value as $1.5 million.

Patel did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment sent to his email address.

Allen County Building Commissioner John Caywood said the violations were so severe, they could have posed safety hazards to guests.

Caywood said Wednesday when county building inspectors inspected an indoor swimming pool under construction this year, they found electrical and concrete violations and unlicensed apprentice workers.

Inspectors also saw obvious problems with steel work and welding for the structure, he said. Among them: The use of scrap or previously used steel for structural components; steel that was not the right size; welds with holes; and steel beams that did not meet with a proper joint.

“The steel work was so poor that I believe it was the worst job I have seen in over 30 years working construction,” Caywood said in a document summarizing his findings after visiting the site.

In an interview Wednesday, Caywood said the steel work was so obviously defective that the county did not pay for structural tests.

However, the department did call in a professional inspection company, Patriot Environmental and Engineering Inc. of Fort Wayne, and the company confirmed the findings, according to documents in the hotel’s file.

The hotel project is subject to $128,000 in fines, which have been suspended and may be negotiated if remediation can be worked out, Caywood said.

The plumbing contractor, John Chorpenning, is also subject to penalties and has been referred to the Indiana attorney general’s office for an investigation of his license, according to a letter in building department files.

Chorpenning could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Caywood said it might be difficult to remedy the steel violations without dismantling and removing the steel. The steel is under the rest of the multistory structure, he said.

He said it’s possible the hotel might have to be taken down, but he hopes that can be avoided. He recalled problems with a hotel under construction along West Jefferson Boulevard several years ago that had to be demolished because of structural problems.

“Were trying to get ahead of this,” he said, adding that if not for the pool problems, the structural problems might have gone undetected.

“My primary concern is for the hotel to be safe for people who come to our community. The goal would be a safe and sound structure for the hotel.”

Sleep Inn/Mainstay Suites properties are affiliated with Choice Hotels and run by franchisees.

The 40,000-square-foot hotel was approved as a special use and was granted an exception for its 49-foot height by the Fort Wayne Board of Zoning Appeals in January 2017. The building’s height exception was also approved by federal and local aviation officials because it is in the Smith Field Overlay District, which places restrictions on projects that might affect air traffic.

rsalter@jg.net