Condominium Association Board Sought Repairs Despite Inspector’s Reassurances The Building Was “In Good Shape”

Reports show that residents and the condominium association board of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside were told of expensive repairs needed in 2018.

A 2018 engineering report warned of “major structural damage” and a construction error in the building. The structural slab was deteriorating; it was flat instead of sloped. Water couldn’t drain properly and pooled on the surface. The concrete began to crumble, and support columns rusted.

 “Our building is at a turning point. We have decisions to make as a family about our future.”

New documents show the board and residents were shown an urgent PowerPoint presentation from the property manager dated November 10-11, 2020. The language was stark. One slide explained in bold, uppercase lettering: WHY WE HAVE TO DO ALL THIS NOW. The condo needed repairs that were not cosmetic, they were structural and hidden in the concrete, the roof, the generator room, and fire wall.

One month after the 2018 report, a Surfside inspector told those residents that their building was in “good shape.”

A city inspector who conducted multiple site visits during the doomed demolition was Ross Prieto, the chief building official in Surfside, Fla., who told residents of Champlain Towers South that their building appeared to be sound nearly three years before its deadly collapse last week.

Investigators will be reviewing the reassurances of the inspector, delays in action following the consulting engineer’s findings, design or construction flaws; any issues with subsurface soils; and the possibility that some outside force — a vehicle that struck a post in the underground parking garage, for example — could have affected a key structural component of the building.

The 2018 price tag to fix the building’s problems was estimated at $9 million. But by 2020, those figures blossomed to more than $12 million. The board wanted to take out a $15 million line of credit to begin the repairs. Condo residents would have to pay their share, about $100,000 each.

Months later, in April 2021, condo board president Jean Wodnicki wrote a letter to residents noting that discussion about the fixes had gone on for years and that problems with the concrete were accelerating. “When you can visually see the concrete spalling (cracking), that means that the rebar holding it together is rusting and deteriorating beneath the surface,” Wodnicki wrote.

Documents show the board approved seeking a $15 million line of credit for the repairs on April 13, 2021, two months before the collapse.

NPR and New York Times