March 11, 2013
Winnipeg investigates misused engineer's seal
The City of Winnipeg is investigating the activities of one of its building inspectors, after a seal belonging to a professional engineer was copied on to blueprints being used to build three houses in the city.
“There are three different issues that are being looked into related to a local builders’ appeal of stop work orders discussed at Standing Policy Committee on Property and Development on Feb. 19, 2013,” said Michelle Bailey, communications officer with the City of Winnipeg in a statement. “These include: concerns regarding code compliance of one or more occupied properties; allegations regarding misuse of professional seals; and, questions regarding potential conflict of interest involving a city employee.”
Hollywood Homes Inc. owner Dave Haner is appealing a stop work order issued by Winnipeg’s chief building inspector John Barnes on Dec. 31, 2012, for three separate homes built by his company.
Barnes said in the order to Haner that there is a problem with the professional engineers seal and signature that have been applied to the plans submitted in the application for a building permit.
In particular, the drawings submitted for three properties on 1042 Chevrier Boulevard, 527 Bowman Avenue and 695 Pritchard Avenue have been affixed with the seal of professional engineer Les Frovich.
However, Frovich has denied in writing to Barnes that he has any knowledge or involvement in these residential construction projects.
“In view of the noted information, I have concluded that the submitted drawings have been deliberately altered to indicate that Mr. Les Frovich had performed a design service for the preserved wood foundation,” said Barnes, who said this deception contributed to the City of Winnipeg agreeing to issue a building permit for these projects.
According to the Winnipeg Free Press and the CBC, Haner alleges that he purchased the blueprints with a false engineering seal from InterPro Building Design, which is owned by the wife of Winnipeg building inspector Sig Steinhilber.
The allegations have not been proven in court, but they are at the centre of an internal City of Winnipeg investigation into the fraudulent seals and a potential case of conflict of interest by a city employee.
However, Steinhilber does freelance design work for InterPro Building Design Service.
The homes in question are being constructed utilizing a preserved wood foundation, which are required to be certified on completion by a professional structural engineer licenced to practice in Manitoba.
For this reason, the building permits for the homes were revoked by the city for contravening building bylaws. In addition, Hollywood Homes was ordered to stop work immediately and obtain new permits.
Alternatively, the company could obtain a permit to demolish the homes and leave the site in a clean and level condition. If Haner fails to take action, the city is authorized to carry out all the necessary work to bring the buildings into compliance without further notice, including demolition.
Two of the homes are currently occupied by families.
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