Surfside, Florida manager Andrew Hyatt is pushing back on the notion that town officials are responsible for slowing down desperately needed structural repairs to a 12-story building in the years leading up to its collapse last month, killing dozens of residents.
After the Miami Herald reported that it took more than a month for Surfside to respond to plans submitted by the building's board in May, Hyatt said the issues under discussion were preliminary plans unrelated to structural work and not permits to begin repairs.
"It would appear that the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association sought to address a number of issues outside the scope of any proposed 40-year re-certification work," such as new natural gas lines and added parking, Hyatt said in a statement. "There was no indication during any communications between the Town and the association by telephone or electronic mail that this submission required emergency action by the Town of Surfside."
Emails obtained by the Herald show the condo building manager appearing to grow impatient at the lack of response from the town to plans for a temporary parking plan needed to move forward on repair of a concrete slab under the building's pool and on damaged columns in its garage.
More than a month after an initial request, building manager Scott Stewart wrote to a town building official on June 21, saying that the delays in repairs were becoming costly.
The town requested additional information on June 23, just 14 hours before major sections of the 12-story building collapsed, burying sleeping residents in twisted metal and broken concrete.
As of Sunday, July 4, 24 people have been confirmed dead and 121 remain unaccounted for.
The engineering firm Morabito Consultants submitted an inspection to the condo board in 2018 urging work on a concrete slab that been improperly laid flat instead of sloped, preventing water from draining off, causing "major structural damage."
The report did not warn that the building was in danger of falling down. A town building official at the time was reassuring, telling members soon after the report that the condo building was in "very good shape."
Another possible factor adding to the delay was Morabito Consultant's estimated price tag of more than $9 million for the work.
By the time a new board was ready to start the work this year, the price tag was more than $15 million, according to a board letter sent to owners earlier this year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.