Special Reports

Wichita officials order homebuilder to fix roof, slab in house

Maple Shade resident Steve Garner shows how the linoleum in his kitchen is stretching from a crack in the concrete that runs from the street, through his driveway, through the house and out to the end of his patio. (Dec. 22, 2010)
Maple Shade resident Steve Garner shows how the linoleum in his kitchen is stretching from a crack in the concrete that runs from the street, through his driveway, through the house and out to the end of his patio. (Dec. 22, 2010) The Wichita Eagle

City officials have begun to pressure a Wichita homebuilder after ongoing complaints about the quality of the houses he builds.

Clint Miller, builder and developer with Clint Miller Homes, remains under investigation by the city's central inspection office, superintendent Kurt Schroeder said Friday.

Inspectors have mandated that Miller fix one of the seven crumbling Maple Shade houses he built.

Those houses — on the back edge of the subdivision on Webb Road south of Harry — were the focus of a two-month Eagle investigation examining structural problems that had led some houses to be devalued to about half their initial worth.

Meanwhile, former U.S. Attorney Randy Rathbun, now in private civil practice, said last week that he's considering legal action against Miller and the city on behalf of the Maple Shade homeowners.

And, Schroeder said his office continues to explore several other complaints they've received against Miller homes since The Eagle began reporting about the problems in Maple Shade in early November.

One of those cases involves a basement foundation where a plumbing inspector questioned the thickness of the concrete, Schroeder said.

The city is requiring Miller to drill holes in the floor to verify the depth of the concrete in the foundation, which is under construction and is not in Maple Shade, Schroeder said.

That comes as the city continues its investigation into at least six houses in Maple Shade that have cracked foundations and walls that some believe stem from poorly compacted fill dirt beneath the slab foundations.

The city has said it would investigate the housing problems and could suspend or revoke Miller's license. It remains unclear if the city will do so.

"We're trying to pull all these things together," Schroeder said.

Plan to fix problems

On Wednesday, city officials accompanied Miller to inspect one of the deteriorating Maple Shade houses and ordered him to develop a plan to fix it.

Steve Garner, who lives in Maple Shade, said he was surprised when two city officials, a roofer and Miller showed up to inspect his slab patio home.

Garner, whose house has numerous roof leaks and a growing foundation crack bisecting the house from the driveway through the kitchen and dining room out across his patio, said the meeting "came from out of the blue" and was initiated by e-mails on Monday from city inspection officials.

The Monday e-mail was his first contact with City Hall since Dec. 15, Garner said.

The result of Wednesday's meeting, Garner said, was an appointment to fix his roof on Friday.

In addition, Garner and Schroeder said, Miller was ordered by city officials to come up with a plan to fix the slab foundation within the next two weeks.

The visitors included Darlene Hultman, who supervises building construction inspection for the city's Office of Central Inspection; city inspector Lance Davis; Wichita roofer Mike Heiland; and Miller, Garner said.

The meeting was the first time he had met Miller, Garner said, despite numerous attempts to get Miller's company to repair issues with the 3-year-old house.

"When we worked out a time to meet Wednesday, I never expected to see Clint Miller," Garner said.

Miller offered little input to city officials during the inspection, Garner said, saying that he didn't know why the roof was leaking and "didn't know what to do" about the slab.

In a brief interview, Miller said he's not sure what he will do at Garner's house. He said the source of the problems reported in Maple Shade are still a mystery to him.

"We're still trying to figure out what the problem is out there," he said. "We don't have any definitive answer."

Meanwhile, a task force assembled by the city and the Wichita Area Builders Association has been meeting regularly.

A subcommittee will soon present proposals to the larger group that would set standards for construction depending on the types of soils on the building site, Schroeder said.

The task force is expected to present recommendations to the City Council this spring.

"They're making good progress," he said.

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