It may sound like a lawyer joke but it isn't.
Orem City officials are asking three lawyers to get together and do what city staff, a building company, a homeowner's association, a bevy of consultants and at least two councilmen couldn't do over the past four and a half years.They want City Attorney Paul Johnson to call a meeting between the lawyer for L&T Construction and the attorney for Country Side Condominiums and hash out an understanding everybody can live with.
That was decided after the parties concerned took up more than an hour in Tuesday's work session updating the council on grievances stemming from the construction of condominiums in 1994 by L&T Construction in southeast Orem.
Homeowners say their building isn't safe because the stairwells don't have fire walls as dictated by current code, the roof trusses are improperly braced according to their consultants and there are inadequate water and backflow valves installed. They also claim Orem has allowed uncertified personnel to conduct inspections.
The builders say they've bent over backward to satisfy homeowners who seem to have an endless stream of demands. They claim the problems left unresolved resulted from following the specific direction of city building inspectors.
Louis Bankhead said, "I don't know where it ends. We have followed up on every single issue the city felt we should."
Orem City Councilmen David Palfreyman and Chris Yandow say their investigation of the matter left them satisfied that city staff members handled their responsibilities in a professional and courteous manner. "I don't want any more aspersions cast on our staff," he said.
Johnson says the city cannot force a builder to go back and redo what has passed a final inspection, especially years after the fact. He said difficulties have arisen partially because the building is two and a half stories and fell into different code designations - one requiring fire walls for stairwells and one that did not. He also explained that the code changes every year and if builders were asked to do things over to meet each new code, it would soon be chaos.
"We brought these issues before you in a timely fashion and are asking for help," said Michael Park, representing the Homeowners Association. "I feel any time the city sees improper or unsafe circumstances, it does have the authority to step in."
Park lined up consultants Ken Karren and Paul Heywood who said the sheer walls are not in compliance and from a technical standpoint, the building does not comply.
Mark Paulsen, the attorney for the homeowners, said the homeowners only want the city to issue another five correction notices. "We'll take it from there," he said.
Johnson said the city issued between 900 and 1,000 correction notices during the period of apartment construction and has worked diligently for the past several years trying to resolve the lingering issues.
"I don't see how anyone can say the city is in the back pocket of the developer here," Johnson said.
Councilwoman Judy Bell asked if the three lawyers couldn't sit down "one more time" and work out a solution.
"We've already been involved in an informal sort of arbitration for four and a half years," said Steve Allred, representing L&T Construction.
"All I want is a safe place to live," said Allison Clinger, a Countryside Square Condominiums resident.
City Manager Jim Reams said Johnson would contact the parties involved and meet and report on the results.