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ADOBE HOME SEEMS LIKELY TO FALL VICTIM TO IRON CODES

The Srikantha family is just like any other in Iron County except for one major difference - their house is made of dirt, alfalfa, logs and water.

Adi Srikantha, his wife, Kulamata, and their son, Tiru, constructed an adobe house, complete with a fireplace, 30-inch walls, glass windows, solar heat, outhouse and built-in adobe benches.And they thought life in their new home was great until the Iron County building inspector's office told them adobe was not an approved building material.

Comply with the county building code or vacate the premises, they were told. County Attorney Scott Burns says building codes - like all county laws - are for all residents.

The Srikantha family fell into a critical time window when county building inspector Chad Nay's office was less aggressive. But Nay, who had difficulty enforcing the building code the past few years because of explosive growth and lack of manpower, is beefing up enforcement of the existing code since adding a position.

Srikantha said compliance means paying $5 a foot to bring electricity more than a mile to his property and the installation of a septic tank and water hookups in an area without a well.

"It would cost $25,000 for me to bring electricity in," he said. "It's not worth it."

In November 1994, Srikantha was given a final notice from Nay: "He told us we had 30 days to get out or he was going to recommend the house be bulldozed."

Srikantha, who works on a local farm, and his family now live on the same lot in a small studio apartment owned by his employer.

He moved to Iron County from San Francisco for several reasons, including high California rents and finding a better life for his family.

When he came to Iron County, he had little money.

"We were living in a campground at Lake Mead," he said.

He saw an advertisement for land for sale at a low price near Beryl and decided to take a look. When he saw the land and met with the seller, he was given an offer he could not refuse.

"He told us we could basically write our own ticket," Srikantha said. "I said how about no money down and $50 a month? He said that was fine."

So the deal was done. Srikantha and his family were land owners. They paid about $200 an acre for 3.75 acres. Only later did Srikantha realize he'd been had.

"It would be fair to say we bought this land under false pretenses," he said.

The prior owner told Srikantha the land had easy access to power and water. He was wrong, but this did not deter the Srikantha family from building an adobe house constructed of bricks made of mud mixed with alfalfa.

There was no well on the property, so they hauled water in daily for drinking, bathing, washing and cooking. Kulamata Srikantha said a mere 48 gallons a day is usually ample.

Srikantha and his family lived in the back of a pickup truck while building the home in 1992, but quickly erected a plywood hut against the cold Iron County winter.

Srikantha said he is not emotionally grafted to the adobe building but prefers to stay there if he had the choice. The home was built on a tight budget. The most expensive materials were the telephone poles he bought from the power company for $25 apiece for roof supports.

Even though Srikantha has all the modern amenities he didn't have before, he still would like things to be the way they were.

"Even with the phone and running water, there is nothing like living in something you built with your own hands." he said.