Engineer’s license suspended over Meeker school

A state panel Tuesday suspended the license of the engineer on the botched Meeker Elementary School on an emergency basis while it looks further into the matter.

The State Board of Licensure for Architects, Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors summarily suspended the license of Gary Howell in connection with structural problems that forced the closing of the year-old building at the start of this school year. During a special meeting on the issue, the board also issued a subpoena for additional information on the project from Howell and the Neenan Co., the project’s designer and builder, for whom Howell worked.

Angie Kinnaird Linn, program director for the board, said it’s highly unusual for someone to be summarily suspended by the board.

“In my experience with this board in 17 years, it’s only been done one other time, in the early to mid ‘90s,” she said.

Normal suspensions follow a process of gathering evidence, taking depositions, filing a notice of charges and taking testimony before a decision is made, Kinnaird Linn said.

“This is sort of reversed in that the person has to stop practice immediately, and then we go through the hearing process,” she said.

It occurs when the board determines there’s an imminent danger to the public if the licensee is allowed to continue to practice, she said.

Engineers who reviewed the Meeker project after its completion determined it was designed to a building code applying to storage sheds and agricultural buildings rather than a school. The design made use of undersized structural components, and it failed to properly consider wind, seismic and snow loads.

“In his response to the board he did not indicate that he is aware that he made these mistakes,” Kinnaird Linn said.

Howell previously was reprimanded for letting his license lapse during part of the Meeker school project. She said he told the board he moved and didn’t receive his renewal notice.

Howell’s attorney could not be reached for comment after Tuesday’s meeting.

The Meeker School District is continuing to work on a repair plan for the school and hopes to have it reopened by the start of the next school year.

Howell also was involved with Neenan’s design and construction of Caprock Academy charter school in Grand Junction. That building has been undergoing what a school official described as minor and non-life-threatening structural reinforcements.

Howell also was Neenan’s engineer of record on the Grand Junction VA Medical Center expansion.

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