IBJOpinion

EDITORIAL: Building safety requires oversight

 IBJ Staff
November 6, 2010
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IBJ Editorial

The saga of the Di Rimini apartments is a cautionary tale, and one the city would do well to heed.

That this 31-unit structure at the corner of Capitol Avenue and St. Clair Street could be built and occupied despite multiple building code violations, more than 35 departures from the approved plans, and serious fire-safety deficiencies shows that the city needs to beef up its oversight of construction projects.

An IBJ story last week reported that the city allows developers to operate on a virtual honor system. They submit plans, secure permits and are on their way. City ordinances don’t even require building inspectors to visit construction sites, although developers must make their properties available for 48 hours.

In the Di Rimini case, an inspector did visit the site in June, months before the building was completed, and found multiple violations. The largest one was later addressed by a variance, which is typically easy to get. The code violations did not prompt a zoning inspection that would have revealed dozens of other violations, because the city’s 14 zoning inspectors respond only to complaints.

Clearly, coordination is lacking between city departments that review plans and those that perform inspections, and even among inspectors in different areas.

“At the end of the day, it falls to the builder that they meet code,” said Kate Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Department of Code Enforcement.

The Di Rimini project is certainly an extreme example. The builder ignored a stop-work order issued by the city in September, and moved tenants in without obtaining the required certificate of occupancy.

But the city should not rely on builders to play by the rules. Assuring that buildings go up safely and according to the approved design is the city’s responsibility. In spite of lean budgets, the city must seek ways to tighten the inspection process. Public safety and the integrity of the plan review process demand no less.

Give group independence

Doubts about the effectiveness of the Indiana State Ethics Commission suggest the time has come for change.

Concern has been raised in the wake of Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission General Counsel Scott Storms’ move to Duke Energy. Storms was allegedly presiding over hearings involving Duke while talking to the company about a job.

Yet the ethics commission blessed his acceptance of the job and did not require any cooling-off period. As reported in a story last week, an IBJ review of 27 rulings by the commission back to 2006 showed the commission never prevented a state employee from accepting a private-sector job, and in only three cases required a cooling-off period. Independent ethics experts contacted by IBJ called some of those decisions too lenient.

One way to rebuild faith in the commission would be to give it more independence. Indiana is one of only two states in which the governor appoints all commission members with no oversight. Indiana should allow other officials to appoint some members, or have the General Assembly approve the governor’s choices.

A commission set up to protect the public needs to have the public’s trust.•

__________

To comment on these editorials, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.
 

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  1. Cramer agrees...says don't buy it and sell it if you own it! Their "pay to play" cost is this issue. As long as they charge customers, they never will attain the critical mass needed to be a successful on company...Jim Cramer quote.

  2. My responses to some of the comments would include the following: 1. Our offer which included the forgiveness of debt (this is an immediate forgiveness and is not "spread over many years")represents debt that due to a reduction of interest rates in the economy arguably represents consideration together with the cash component of our offer that exceeds the $2.1 million apparently offered by another party. 2. The previous $2.1 million cash offer that was turned down by the CRC would have netted the CRC substantially less than $2.1 million. As a result even in hindsight the CRC was wise in turning down that offer. 3. With regard to "concerned Carmelite's" discussion of the previous financing Pedcor gave up $16.5 million in City debt in addition to the conveyance of the garage (appraised at $13 million)in exchange for the $22.5 million cash and debt obligations. The local media never discussed the $16.5 million in debt that we gave up which would show that we gave $29.5 million in value for the $23.5 million. 4.Pedcor would have been much happier if Brian was still operating his Deli and only made this offer as we believe that we can redevelop the building into something that will be better for the City and City Center where both Pedcor the citizens of Carmel have a large investment. Bruce Cordingley, President, Pedcor

  3. I've been looking for news on Corner Bakery, too, but there doesn't seem to be any info out there. I prefer them over Panera and Paradise so can't wait to see where they'll be!

  4. WGN actually is two channels: 1. WGN Chicago, seen only in Chicago (and parts of Canada) - this station is one of the flagship CW affiliates. 2. WGN America - a nationwide cable channel that doesn't carry any CW programming, and doesn't have local affiliates. (In addition, as WGN is owned by Tribune, just like WTTV, WTTK, and WXIN, I can't imagine they would do anything to help WISH.) In Indianapolis, CW programming is already seen on WTTV 4 and WTTK 29, and when CBS takes over those stations' main channels, the CW will move to a sub channel, such as 4.2 or 4.3 and 29.2 or 29.3. TBS is only a cable channel these days and does not affiliate with local stations. WISH could move the MyNetwork affiliation from WNDY 23 to WISH 8, but I am beginning to think they may prefer to put together their own lineup of syndicated programming instead. While much of it would be "reruns" from broadcast or cable, that's pretty much what the MyNetwork does these days anyway. So since WISH has the choice, they may want to customize their lineup by choosing programs that they feel will garner better ratings in this market.

  5. The Pedcor debt is from the CRC paying ~$23M for the Pedcor's parking garage at City Center that is apprased at $13M. Why did we pay over the top money for a private businesses parking? What did we get out of it? Pedcor got free parking for their apartment and business tenants. Pedcor now gets another building for free that taxpayers have ~$3M tied up in. This is NOT a win win for taxpayers. It is just a win for Pedcor who contributes heavily to the Friends of Jim Brainard. The campaign reports are on the Hamilton County website. http://www2.hamiltoncounty.in.gov/publicdocs/Campaign%20Finance%20Images/defaultfiles.asp?ARG1=Campaign Finance Images&ARG2=/Brainard, Jim

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