by Rick Langenberg:
The Teller County Commissioners have issued a stern warning to experienced contractors who don’t follow the rules, deviate from approved plans and leave homeowners hanging.
Last week, in a court-like session, the commissioners doubled the sentence recommended by the county’s Board of Review and suspended the license of the Pueblo-based Colorado ResCon LLC , owned by Jack Dennison, for a year. This amounted to a much harsher penalty than what was originally proposed by Teller building officials, who originally just sought to merely issue a violation letter.
The commissioners’ verdict followed an appeal by Dennison, who noted that his company has received many awards by business and construction-related publications and associations. According to Dennison, the company is rated as the one of the top firms in the country for remodeling contractor work.
But serious issues apparently arose regarding a variety of work the company did for a Florissant couple, Lance and Darlene Baker, at 96 Apache Circle. The work dealt with a home improvement project aimed at assisting a former veteran to cope with his growing disabilities by making the property more handicap-accessible and to do needed enhancements. The project, amounting to more than $40,000 worth of work based on the record of a previous hearing, was sanctioned by the Veterans Administration (VA).
Colorado ResCon was cited for a spree of violations by the Teller County Board of Review, including departing from approved plans, not following county codes, failure to obtain permits and reckless actions, resulting in possible personal harm or economic damage to the homeowners. In what amounted to a serious tongue-lashing against the contractor, Teller commissioners Norm Steen and Dave Paul didn’t hold back. “You should have known better,” blasted Steen, in describing the extensive experience of Dennison in 14 municipalities in Colorado. He criticized Dennison for not monitoring the project and issuing inspections for deck, bathroom and other installations that he knew were going to fail. “They (the subcontractors) didn’t have proper supervision,” said Steen. In addition, he noted that some of the subcontractors were not licensed properly. And the fact that the co-property owner was a decorated veteran, who suffered from Agent Orange and received medals for his service in the Vietnam War, further punctuated the commission’s concerns over the reported dire straits condition of the construction project.
Paul also was quite dismayed by the reported construction mess and wasn’t impressed with Dennison’s explanations. “A person’s home is very important to them,” said Paul.
Commissioner Marc Dettenrieder, meanwhile, cast the sole dissenting tally. He had proposed keeping the same sentence as proposed by the Teller Board of Review. “Twelve months is excessive,” said Dettenrieder, who mainly stuck to the technical reports when analyzing the reported violations. The final sentence, though, is not a done deal. The contractor can appeal the decision before the Fourth Judicial District Court.
Also, the case could involve civil proceedings. According to the Teller County Board of Review proceedings, the homeowners and Dennison clashed on key aspects of the construction project done at the Florissant property.
A mini-court trial
The commission’s verdict followed strict rules, with the commissioners, the contractor and homeowners only permitted to discuss comments made during an earlier hearing before the Board of Review in early January. County Attorney Chris Brandt frequently interrupted various speakers, warning them to stick to the record.
Dennison made a detailed presentation and outlined his company’s impressive resume and noted that they are regarded as one of the top contractors in the Front Range for VA projects. As for problems with the Florissant project, he maintained that Darlene Baker was difficult to work with and terminated his company’s services with the added threat, ‘you are not allowed on my property. I will kill you.’
Dennison conceded that there were construction issues with the project, but he contended that they could be dealt with. “They could have been resolved if we were not abruptly removed from the project,” said Dennison. “None of this was hidden. These are normal things that happen at a job site… They (the issues of concern) would be cured in the normal course of construction.”
However, county building officials outlined serious problems with the contractor doing work without proper approvals, including demolition activity, and concluded that the project “was quite a mess.” According to documents submitted at last week’s hearing, the project failed many inspections.. During her testimony, Darlene Bake got quite emotional. “I just hate it when people lie,” blasted Baker. “There is no reason to do this to a veteran.”
According to Darlene Baker, the couple was displaced for five months during course of the project, residing in trailer during the planning and failed execution of the construction. She also differed with Dennison’s analysis of how things were resolved, contending that the contractor walked away from a project left in shambles. “He (Jack Dennison) withdrew from the project, we didn’t terminate him,” said Baker.
In his further defense, Dennison asked for an easier sentence than what was delivered to him during the board of review hearing a month and a half ago. He conceded that a lack of communications resulted in some electrical work that was done without the proper permits. But in their final deliberations, the commissioners displayed little sympathy towards Dennison and the Colorado ResCon company. The verdict, though, was somewhat unprecedented in that it posed a stiffer penalty from the sentence that the contractor was trying to appeal.
This marked the commissioners’ first official appeal hearing of a board of review action in several years.