01 August 2007

Rimkus Referenced as Consulting Engineers in San Antonio Housing Authority's Mirasol Homes Project Construction Defects Debate

Ron Wilson
San Antonio Express-News
August 1, 2007

In another indication of how extensive construction problems might be at the complaint-plagued Mirasol Homes project, an engineer's report has concluded that about 40 percent of the doors and most windows need major repairs. 

San Antonio Housing Authority Chairman Phil Nelson, who's been dealing with Mirasol issues since 2003, said he was surprised by the extent of the problems.

"My original feelings were that the construction was done properly," he said.

The report — written by the Rimkus Consulting Group and paid for by SAHA, which owns Mirasol — covers inspections of 37 of the 246 houses in the West Side public housing project.

Problems deal mainly with water intrusion or water penetrating the walls next to doors and windows and affecting drywall or wall framing, according to the report. They're caused by poorly installed flashing, caulking and felt paper.

Although Mirasol residents have complained about other construction problems, the report addresses only doors and windows. Problems with foundations, air-conditioning systems and mold will be addressed in subsequent reports.

SAHA has filed a lawsuit against Mirasol's developer, Magi Realty, and last week added wording to the lawsuit designed to make it easier to pursue a construction defects claim.

"Once the Rimkus reports confirmed what we had suspected following our review of the initial reports, we moved to add the claim," Gavino Ramos, SAHA's director of corporate relations, said Tuesday.

Nelson added: "The bottom line is we have discovered 'inadequacies' in the windows and foundations. That was the basis for the new language in the lawsuit."

But Ricardo Cedillo, Magi's lead attorney, said the construction defect claim has no meaning because Magi's contract with SAHA gave the developer full indemnification for construction or design problems.

"(SAHA) had its own project manager they paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to ... who birddogged us every step of the way," Cedillo said. "We did what SAHA and KB (builder KB Home) told us to do.

"They have a big problem and they're looking for a scapegoat. But it isn't us. Every time they get blocked, they come up with a new theory (construction defects claim).We're ready to go. We're tired of  them attacking our good name."

Magi has brought KB Home into the lawsuit. KB Home was a subcontractor for Magi.

KB Home continues to stand by its structural warranty that covers all the houses, said spokeswoman Cathy Teague.

"Earlier this year, without any regard to legal responsibility, we told (SAHA) that we would remove all financial barriers which might delay 11 families living in and around Precious Drive (in the Fortuna subdivision) from getting issues with their homes addressed. We're committed to that offer."

Nelson said it's too early to know how much the window and door repairs will cost, or who will foot the bill.

SAHA is following a plan by the Mirasol Task Force, Ramos said, and repairs likely will start only after all reports and recommendations are in.

The task force will get an update at its meeting at 6:30 p.m. today at SAHA headquarters.

Mirasol is a $48 million federally funded housing project with $21 million going toward 246 single-family homes, which have been the target of complaints almost since construction was completed in 2000. Other issues emerged in December, when residents and homeowners raised concerns about foundation and mold problems.

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