Accident site lacked city building permit

The contractor failed to have the foundation work approved before building.
Thursday, September 18, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:13 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 6, 2008

The company erecting a steel frame that collapsed Tuesday morning, injuring three men, did not have the proper building permit.

Prost Builders, the lead contractor on the future Columbia Transload terminal at 6501 Brown Station Road, had a permit for foundation work on the site, but no authority to begin construction on the terminal building itself, said Rich Sternadori, the city’s chief building inspector.

“There was no approval to put the building up,” Sternadori said.

Prost was required by ordinance to have footing and foundation work inspected and approved by the city before beginning construction of the steel frame, Sternadori said. Because there was no permit issued for the building, the steel frame had not yet been subject to an inspection.

Construction was halted on the terminal until Prost receives the proper permit. Sternadori said city inspectors are scheduled to visit the site Monday to inspect the foundation work before issuing the building permit. Prost could be subject to a fine for failing to follow the city’s permitting process, he said.

Three workers remain hospitalized

One of the injured men, Chris Tristan, remained in critical condition Wednesday evening at University Hospital. His injured co-workers, Trevor Kirby and Corey Sieckman, were listed in fair condition.

The men are all in their early 20s, said a spokesperson for JD Builders, a subcontractor that employed the three men. The spokesperson declined further comment, saying the company was awaiting findings from a report by the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, which was at the site Wednesday. The cause of the steel frame’s collapse remains unknown . It is also unknown whether J.D. Builders or the men themselves were aware Prost did not have a permit to erect the steel frame.

Bob Smith, project manager for Prost, did not return several phone calls seeking comment about Tuesday’s accident.

A new terminal for COLT

The long-awaited terminal is being constructed for the city-owned Columbia Terminal Railroad, or COLT, which runs between Columbia and Centralia. The 21-mile line handles shipments of materials to local businesses and delivery of coal for the city’s power plant.

The city purchased the 15-acre site, near Route B, for $465,000 in December 2001. A project proposal said the city planned to invest another $450,000 in the project, which is estimated to generate about $300,000 in annual revenue.

Fred Boeckmann, the city counselor, said he does not expect the city to face any legal problems as a result of the accident because the city is leasing the land to Prost Builders.

“I don’t see any liability on our part,” Boeckmann said.

The need for construction permits

Sternadori said there is usually 75 to 80 construction projects at a time that require attention from city inspectors. He said it is not possible to make sure builders at all of those sites are following the city’s permitting process.

“I don’t have the manpower to go out and check each and every one of those jobs,” Sternadori said. “But when we become aware of (violations), we do everything we can to stop it.”

Sternadori said most builders are “professionals” and secure the necessary permits at each stage of a project. However, there are some who don’t, he said.

“Certainly time is money for everybody in this case,” he said, “and they jumped the gun.”

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