September 30, 2006 in City

Repairs to RPS barriers delayed

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The city of Spokane told River Park Square officials Friday that the mall’s plans to strengthen the walls of its garage are incomplete.

The city’s building department said it would not approve the building permit for construction until River Park Square provides more calculations and test results about the strength of the walls, according to a letter signed by city Inspector Supervisor Dan Skindzier and sent to the mall’s general manager, Rob McOmie.

“We understand that responding to this request may take some time,” the letter said. “We at the city are as anxious as you to begin repair work at the garage, but our mutual goal is to enhance public safety at the garage. Appropriate care and attention to this matter will lead to a better result for everyone.”

Mall officials announced in early August that they planned to strengthen the barriers by attaching steel rods and plates to outside-facing walls. They said they hoped improvements would be completed by the end of summer, but construction has been delayed because the building permit has yet to be approved.

River Park Square is owned by the Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review.

Mall spokeswoman Jennifer West said the company will send the notice to Richard Dethlefs, the engineer hired by River Park Square to study the garage’s condition.

“He will review (the city’s report) and respond to the city hopefully in a quick manner,” West said.

The actions to fix the walls were sparked by the death of Jo Ellen Savage, a Pullman woman whose car hit a barrier and fell from the structure’s fifth floor on April 8. Earlier this week an attorney representing Savage’s family confirmed a settlement had been reached in the incident. River Park Square officials have said they had nothing to do with the settlement and that it was handled by Safeco, which insures the garage.

The city’s building department hired LSB Consulting Engineers to review plans for the enhancement and the report on the garage’s condition, which was authored by Dethlefs.

In his July report on the structure, Dethlefs said only six of the garage’s 268-barriers didn’t meet building code. It was unclear Friday how many more might not meet code based on LSB’s report.

West said River Park Square would not permit Dethlefs to speak to news organizations until after the city issues a building permit.

The city asked for extra information in four categories, including building code interpretation, the placement of rebar in the walls, and barrier ductility – or flexibility.

LSB’s report disagrees with Dethlefs’ interpretation of the 1970 building code. In his July report, Dethlefs wrote that the code did not require the walls to support anything more than gravity and wind.

Starting in 1991, building code stipulated that the walls must be able to withstand 6,000 pounds of force from cars or other objects.

Randall LaPlante, of LSB, wrote that even though the 1970 code didn’t specify exactly how much force the walls had to withstand from a vehicle impact, it does say “impact loads shall be considered in the design of any structure where impact loads occur.” Because an amount isn’t stipulated, the force that walls were required to withstand would be up to the city building official, he wrote.

An official at LSB said LaPlante is on vacation and was unavailable for comment.

“The only goal is to ensure that the health and safety of the public is preserved, and we’re moving in that direction,” said Spokane Mayor Dennis Hession. “We’re all working on that one end.”


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