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Condo board boss warned of dangerous damage before collapse

The condominium association pegged the total repair and restoration cost at $16.2 million

SNS | Surfside |

President of the Florida condo building which collapsed killing at least 11 had in 2018 inspection identified that structural problems had “gotten significantly worse” and owners needed to pay a hefty price to get them fixed.

The 9 April letter from Champlain Towers South Condominium President Jean Wodnicki hinted at an ongoing debate over the repairs and apathy from some condo owners to pay for major work that would cost at least $15.5 million.

Wodnicki noted costs had increased since an October 2018 report by engineering firm Morabito Consultants first pointed out key issues with weakening concrete, and she predicted they would only grow more if delayed.

“Indeed the observable damage such as in the garage has gotten significantly worse since the initial inspection,” Wodnicki wrote. “The concrete deterioration is accelerating.”

“It is impossible to know the extent of the damage to the underlying rebar until the concrete is opened up. Oftentimes the damage is more extensive than can be determined by inspection of the surface,” she wrote.

She added, “I acknowledge that we are talking about a huge project and a very large assessment. The longer we wait, the higher the bids will be.”

The condominium association pegged the total repair and restoration cost at $16.2 million – counting items added since the 2018 Morabito inspection – that would be defrayed in part with about $707,000 the association had in cash on hand.

That left the owners with a bill of $15.5 million, with individual assessments ranging from $80,000 for a one-bedroom unit to more than $300,000 for a penthouse.

“For those who believe we are assessing too much, this shows that we are actually under-assessing a bit, according to estimates,” Wodnicki wrote.

The letter also shows that, in April, a bid package for the major concrete and waterproofing work was still being discussed.

The plan was to open those bids on 8 June, but it’s not clear from documents released to date whether that happened.

The bill for the repairs was a big topic of conversation among residents.

“A lot of people were complaining, especially the old people living there,” said condo owner Rosalia Cordaro, who was in New York when the building collapsed. “It was a lot of money. I was complaining.”

Another owner said the assessment was the talk of the pool when she last visited a week before the collapse.

“It was the theme of most of our conversations,” said Nieves Aguero. “‘Are you going to pay it? Are you going to refinance?’”

“The number kept getting bigger, bigger and bigger,” said owner Alfredo Lopez, adding that the board did a good job of communicating and keeping the process transparent.

“A lot of people were unhappy with the upcoming assessment, but we all had the same goal of protecting our building, protecting our investment,” Lopez said.