75 Days Before Condo Collapse, Residents Got Cautionary Letter

Condo board president explained damage was 'significantly worse' than before
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 29, 2021 12:27 PM CDT
75 Days Before Condo Collapse, Residents Got Cautionary Letter
Crews work in the rubble Champlain Towers South residential condo Tuesday in Surfside, Fla. Many people were still unaccounted for after Thursday's fatal collapse.   (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

"A lot of this work could have been done or planned for in years gone by. But this is where we are now." That’s what Jean Wodnicki, condo board president at the Champlain Towers South condo complex in Surfside, Fla., wrote in a letter to residents on April 9. She was warning that problems with the building had "gotten significantly worse" since a 2018 inspection, with the letter serving as an explanation of why residents were facing a $15 million special assessment for repairs, the New York Times reports. That assessment was approved by residents, but unfortunately it was too late," resident Erick De Moura said, per CNN. More on the letter:

  • That 2018 inspection showed areas of serious concerns, and those issues had only grown more severe, with new problems arising, Wodnicki wrote. Plus, costs rise. Those factors contributed to a growing tab. "This is how we have gone from the estimated $9,128,433.60 cited in [the] 2018 report, to the much larger figure we have today," she wrote.

  • Among the specifics she offered: "It is impossible to know the extent of the damage to the underlying rebar until the concrete is opened up. ...When you can visually see the concrete spalling (cracking), that means that the rebar holding it together is rusting and deteriorating beneath the surface. The concrete deterioration is accelerating."
  • The condo board had hired Frank Morabito for the 2018 inspection and wanted him back for the planned construction in 2019. But delays in setting up contracts delayed the work, with roof repairs beginning in late 2020, the Wall Street Journal reports.
  • Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett speculated that the condominium association must have not thought the repairs were pressing. “Obviously, that was a fatal mistake,” he said. Seventy-five days after the letter went out, the building collapsed, per USA Today.
  • NBC News reports Wodnicki survived the collapse.
(More surfside stories.)

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