July 31, 2008

Sun City Resident Calls Roof Trusses Report a “Whitewash”

By Michael Welles Shapiro, The Island Packet, Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Jul. 31--Inspectors who checked 2,749 homes in Sun City Hilton Head for roof truss problems say they found about 55 homes where major repairs were needed and hundreds more needing minor repairs.

One resident, however, said the county downplayed the magnitude of the problem.

The eight-month investigation was performed by a private inspection company, England Enterprises, and county inspectors.

The county called for the inspections last year after stories in The Island Packet showed that many homes that county inspectors had approved had roof trusses that were installed improperly.

Trusses are triangular wooden frames that normally support a roof, but in extreme winds prevent roofs from lifting off houses.

In many cases, trusses in Sun City homes were not fastened together properly, the stories showed.

The county's building codes director, Arthur Cummings, summed up the results of the inspection in a brief e-mail he sent earlier this month. His e-mail said there were serious truss problems requiring repairs in about 2 percent of the homes inspected, or about 55.

Cummings' department employs the inspectors who initially checked the trusses to make sure they were installed properly.

Sun City resident Ray Koenig said the county's assessment doesn't address thousands of smaller repairs done on roofs in Sun City.

"Thousands of screws ... were installed," said Koenig. "They weren't installed for nothing."

Koenig, who first called attention to the truss problem, called Cummings' report a "whitewash."

Records from the first 739 roof inspections, provided to the Packet by England Enterprises, showed that 90 percent of the roofs needed at least one repair.

Many of the repairs involved installing screws to strengthen truss connections or adding lumber to reinforce trusses.

County administrator Gary Kubic said the county focused on whether Sun City homeowners were satisfied that problems were being fixed rather than on the details of the problems. Kubic said he's been assured that inspectors have re-checked every home where truss problems were suspected and that Pulte Homes, the developer of Sun City, has followed up with repairs.

The episode raised questions about whether the county's inspectors were doing their jobs effectively, so to restore confidence in the building codes department, Kubic ordered a review by an accreditation organization.

That review, which began 9 1/2 months ago, has been delayed because Cummings did not until recently provide records needed by the organization.


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