Madera County halted work on the three-hotel construction project on Highway 41 three weeks ago because the necessary inspections were not being performed by the owner / general contractor Paul Patel.
Work started on the project in November after a nearly 18-month delay due to the developer and his design team not addressing plan review comments/corrections as requested. In late March the project was ‘red tagged’ by the Madera County Building Division. The county’s actions has put a temporary stop to the construction of what will be a 108-room Holiday Inn Express & Suites, a 108-room Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, and a 108-room Hampton Inn by Marriott, on six acres on the west side of Highway 41 in Oakhurst.
In November, construction on the first of the three hotels got underway, although the county placed some conditions on the project - mainly allowing framing only, insisting nothing can be “closed-in” with plywood or sheet rock, nor can any electrical, plumbing, or mechanical be installed in the structures until a 468,000-gallon water tank is installed, the fire hydrant system and fire pump are installed, and the system is attached to Hillview Water system, and properly functioning. To date, the tank and system required for fire protection, has yet to be installed.
At that time, Harry Hinton of the county building department said an agreement was made with Patel to allow him to frame, but he must stop at that point until the required water storage tank, fire water pump, six fire hydrants, and approved access for fire equipment on the property are completed.
Inspection reports needed
According to Hinton, the latest county action came because there were areas of construction that required special inspections to verify that the work was done appropriately to code, that the materials used meet the specified structural requirements, including the foundations and structural steel fabrication and installation. These “inspections” did not happen as required by code and the approved construction documents.
See’s Consulting of Fresno was hired by Patel to complete the required inspections and testing, and provide the resulting reports to the county for approval. See’s works for the county, although they are paid for their services by Patel. See’s is taking over the structural steel portion since the company that had been hired to provide that inspection service work has decided not to continue on the project according to Hinton.
“Most jurisdictions don’t have people that have the expertise in these areas (concrete tests and structural installation),” Hinton said. “These special inspection companies, like See’s Consulting, have those capabilities to take samples and labs to do the testing.”
Hinton said the builder and the county need to catch up to make sure all the different components that are structural, meet the minimum requirements before allowing the project to move forward. “The issues are all related to the structural integrity of the buildings and are minimum requirements for the life, health and safety for the people who will stay and work in the hotels,” Hinton said.
“This can’t keep going on ... we are not getting the needed information for me to feel comfortable with the project moving foreword,” Hinton said.
Hinton said See’s Consulting has been doing its job as as required, but Patel, serving as general contractor for the project, is responsible for getting the needed inspections done and the reports to the county, but that, in some cases, has not happened.
In the meantime, workers are continuing trenching work for water and sewer lines and some block wall work.
Before completion, the project still needs to be connected to Hillview Water Co., and the county sewer line.
Hinton explained the county building division is tasked by state law with the job of reviewing plans and construction documents to verify they meet the minimum code requirements before issuing a permit for construction. Then the inspectors are tasked with verifying that the work being performed meets minimum code requirements and the construction documents.
According to Hinton, building permits were first submitted for the hotels on Nov. 27, 2013.
Owner and general contractor Paul Patel was not available for comment for this story.
Patel has estimated that when all three hotels are complete, they will provide 100-plus jobs for Mountain Area residents, and generate a combined $1.2 million in Transient Occupancy Tax (bed tax) annually for the county.
When the three hotels open, the 324 rooms will increase the number of hotel rooms currently in Oakhurst (534) by about 60%.