Owners of units in collapsed Miami tower late in contributing for major repairs

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Owners of units in a Florida oceanfront condo building that collapsed with deadly consequences were just days away from a deadline to start making steep payments toward more than $9 million in major repairs that had been recommended nearly three years earlier.

That cost estimate, from the Morabito Consultants engineering firm in 2018, meant owners at Champlain Towers South were facing payments of anywhere from $80,000 for a one-bedroom unit to $330,000 or so for a penthouse, to be paid all at once or in installments. Their first deadline was July 1.

One resident whose apartment was spared, Adalberto Aguero, had just taken out a loan to cover his $80,000 bill.

“I figured I would pay it off after they fixed the building. I didn’t want to pay it off before because you never know,” said Aguero, adding that he pulled paperwork to make the installment payments a day after Thursday’s collapse. “I said cancel everything.”

An itemized bill sent by the condo board in April to owners of the building’s 136 units showed that much of the planned work was in the pool area and the façade. Installing new pavers and waterproofing the pool deck and building entrance would cost $1.8 million, with another $1 million going to “structural repairs” and “planter landscaping,” according to a condo board email obtained by The Associated Press. A line item of “miscellaneous repairs” that included work on the garage was estimated to cost $280,000.

Total costs assessed, including many items that appeared to be for aesthetic purpose: $15 million.

Engineers and construction experts say the Morabito documents that focused just on the structural work make clear there were several major repairs that needed to be done as soon as possible. Other than some roof repairs, that work had not begun, officials said.

The cost estimate emailed by Morabito Consultants to Surfside officials was among a series of documents released as rescue efforts continued at the site of the collapsed building, where more than 150 people remained unaccounted for. At least nine people were killed in the collapse, authorities said Sunday.

Another 2018 Morabito report submitted to the city said waterproofing under the pool deck had failed and had been improperly laid flat instead of sloped, preventing water from draining off.

“The failed waterproofing is causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas. Failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially,” the report said.

The firm recommended that the damaged slabs be replaced in what would be a major repair.

That came as news to Susana Alvarez, who lived on the 10th floor of the doomed tower and said a Surfside official assured residents in a 2018 meeting that there was no danger. It wasn’t clear who that official was.

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