Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Report Gives Branson Critical Look Building Safety Must Be Upgraded, It Says

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Report Gives Branson Critical Look Building Safety Must Be Upgraded, It Says

Article excerpt

A state task force set up to look into construction practices in Branson, Mo., concluded that serious questions remain about the safety of buildings in the fast-growing country music Mecca.

The report, made public Thursday, said that Branson has made significant strides but still has a long way to go toward ensuring building safety through inspections and code enforcement.

"The city is better equipped certainly today than it was even six months ago, but challenges remain," task force chairman Karl Zobrist, a lawyer in Kansas City, told a press conference.

The report chided unidentified Branson politicians for refusing to cooperate with the investigation and "fixing the blame upon a variety of outside forces."

"The problems in Branson are real, not imagined," said the report, which was sent to Gov. Mel Carnahan. "They are not just `paperwork' problems."

At a separate rebuttal press conference in Branson, officials said the city had taken steps to improve the building department and inspection program, including spending $458,000 to hire more inspectors and outside consultants and to improve record keeping.

Carnahan appointed the panel last fall after questions about building safety were raised by a state licensing board and media reports.

The issue hasn't had a noticeable effect on tourism in Branson, which hopes to draw 6 million visitors this year.

Zobrist acknowledged that the report was incomplete because it was based on the preliminary findings of engineer Charles Zurheide, who was fired by Branson just weeks after his appointment by the governor.

Branson then announced it would conduct its own investigation; officials later insisted the town's buildings were safe.

"We did not in this report say that there were dangerous structures in the city of Branson," said John A. …

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