Cal-Neva has until Friday to begin repairs or face shutdown
Nevada Appeal News Service
INCLINE VILLAGE – The Cal-Neva Lodge in Crystal Bay has until Friday to start work on a faulty fire alarm system – a problem that the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District made public last week – or be shut down.
The Cal-Neva Lodge’s alarm system has been failing since August, when a series of false alarms raised Fire Marshal Tom Smith’s suspicions.
“After a few false alarms from their system in August we investigated and found out that the system had failed and was not repairable,” Smith said. “State law mandates that it be maintained, so I noticed (management) on the 16 (of August) and asked them to get to work on the problem immediately and to correct it within 30 days.”
Smith said the fire alarm system’s wiring is faulty and no longer reliable, although the sprinkler system is operational if a fire started. The alarm may or may not notify the occupants or the fire department if a fire started, according to Smith.
Cal-Neva General Manager Steve Tremewan confirmed since the initial notice in August, the Cal-Neva has instituted a series of fire safety checks.
“Basically, what is happening is that every hour, on the hour, we’re walking through the casino checking for fire safety-related issues,” Tremewan said.
The Cal-Neva did not immediately correct the problem last summer, Smith said, instead they let it go until he notified management again. At that point, Smith said the Cal-Neva contracted Briggs Electric to submit a proposal for the new alarm system, which Smith approved on Oct. 10.
But Cal-Neva’s communication with the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District lapsed again. The plan Briggs submitted was not executed. None of the corporate owners have contacted him directly, Smith said, adding his only contact has been Tremewan. The Cal-Neva Lodge is owned by Maram Holdings, based in Los Angeles, according to Smith.
Both Tremewan and Cal-Neva Asset Manager Gary Bedian said the bid process for a new system is long and expensive.
“This isn’t something we can just do today. We have to get bids on the work, review the bids and then sign the contract. This isn’t an inexpensive proposition, either, and we wanted to go about this in the best possible way,” Bedian said.
Smith estimated a new alarm system would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Still, he didn’t excuse the lack of communication from ownership.
“They probably went a month without contacting me, so I assumed the ownership refused or neglected to fix the problem,” Smith said. “I gave ownership notice on Nov. 21 that they must be working on the alarm system by Dec. 15 or we’d close the operation.”
That letter from the fire district made its way to the desk of Jerry Markling, the chief of enforcement with the Nevada Gaming Commission.
“We were contacted on Nov. 21 and got in contact with the Cal-Neva’s management and the landlord. We believe they have every intent of fixing the problem, but we will monitor the situation because we are concerned that our licensees abide by local codes,” Markling said.
John Harounian, an associate asset manager with the Cal-Neva’s ownership group, confirmed the Cal-Neva’s plans and questioned Smith’s timing.
“We had every intention to comply, it was not necessary for this to become a public matter. We don’t know why (Smith) would bring this up now when we don’t have to comply until (Dec.) 15. There was no reason for this to end up in the papers,” Harounian said.
Smith said quite the opposite.
“This was a tactic that I employed because I was not comfortable with the work they were doing on the system. My job is to make sure every building in the jurisdiction is safe and this was not. This was the biggest red flag I could raise,” Smith said. “Listen, I didn’t want them to shut down and neither did they or the state gaming board, but this is a very serious problem. It’s a critical system and they are neglecting it. This is terrible, and it will be chaos over there if we need to shut them down.”