Contact 13 Investigates
Health District's new report highlights old problems
Clark County, NV (KTNV) -- The Southern Nevada Health District headquarters have been deemed unsafe and structurally unsound.
And now, a new engineering report caused the building to be closed.
But as Chief Investigator Darcy Spears is here to explain, the new report reinforces old problems Contact 13 first exposed years ago.
"How the building got signed off by the City Building Department in the first place, I don't know," muses County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani.
Fifty years ago, the Health District's Shadow Lane headquarters opened with no internal support system.
The walls weren't properly attached to the roof and ground.
Photos from the just-released engineering study that caused the building's closure show cracks in the walls and a partially collapsed roof.
They're eerily similar to photos from a July 2008 Contact 13 investigation into the death of Dan Pauluk.
The environmental health inspector died of mold poisoning that doctors say he got from working at the Shadow Lane building.
We showed the pictures, which date back to 2004, to Commissioner Steve Sisolak.
"Clearly when you look at these pictures from seven years ago and there's water stains and it's never been repaired, that raises the concern about the transparency and the leadership in terms of not fixing those," Sisolak said.
The separating cinder block we found on the southeast side of the building is just one small example of the long history of documented defects at Health District headquarters.
Employees we spoke to back in 2008 say all the District ever did was put band-aids on the building's many problems, and the District has even admitted that when they realized a number of years back that they needed a new facility, they didn't want to sink a ton of money into this one.
In December 2004, Dan Pauluk's supervisor wrote an email to District leaders saying, "I frankly do not understand why the roof itself cannot be fixed to eliminate this problem, rather than continuing to replace ceiling tiles every time it rains."
When they announced the building's closure on Monday, the Health District said they were shocked that it was in such bad shape.
"The building's been a sick building, as I refer to it, since I went and got my first health card 35 years ago," said Commissioner Giunchigliani. "The problem is, what money has been put aside for maintenance? Have they maintained the building appropriately in the first place?"
We took the questions to the District's Chief Health Officer, Dr. Larry Sands.
"We've made efforts to put into place fixes that are reasonable to be able to shore up the building and address some of the safety issues that were identified," Sands said.
Darcy: "But are those band-aids as opposed to the surgery that it appears this building needed all along?"
Dr. Sands: "Without knowing from the get-go that the building was constructed without an internal support system there was no way to be able to remedy that."
The Health District and the County are also fighting over funding.
The District says County Commissioners didn't give them enough property tax money to fund their operation.
But the County says their contribution is discretionary -- up to a maximum amount.
Commissioner Giunchigliani says the County held back because of budget cuts, and because the Health District hasn't justified the amount they're asking for.
It's clear this is a blame game that's far from over.
The funding case is currently on appeal with the State Supreme Court.