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April letter said condo concrete deterioration was “accelerating”

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The board president of Champlain Towers South said in a letter to residents in April that concrete deterioration seen by an engineer in 2018 was “accelerating” and “observable damage such as in the garage” had grown “significantly worse since the initial inspection.”

The letter from Jean Wodnicki, president of the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association, explained that the cost of work and repairs needed on the building — which collapsed into a pile of rubble on Thursday — rose from an estimated $9.128 million in 2018 to over $16 million as of April.

About $707,000 of cash was “on hand” for the project, and more than $15 million was needed.

“For those who wanted a better understanding of the projects, I hope this helps,” Wodnicki wrote in the letter ahead of a meeting to discuss the costs. “For those who believe we are assessing too much, this shows that we are actually under-assessing a bit according to estimates.”

The needed repairs outlined in the letter referred to issues cited in the 2018 engineering report by the firm Morabito Consultants. That report warned that the building had major structural worries, although it didn’t warn of imminent danger, and it is unclear if any of the issues in that report led to the building’s collapse.

Waterproofing failed under the pool deck and wasn’t properly laid, so water didn’t drain, the 2018 report said. “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,” it said.

It also said there was “abundant cracking” in concrete columns, beams and walls in the parking garage.

“Because so much of the needed concrete/waterproofing work is underground, we must pull up almost the entire ground level of the lot to access the areas that require repair,” Wodnicki wrote in the April letter. “That means we have to put it all back at the end. This includes the pool deck, the entire entry drive and ground level parking, north side contractor parking, and planters/landscaping. Electrical work and plumbing are involved almost everywhere. Balcony concrete requires repair/waterproofing, and the railings require repair. And- we have to bring all this up to current code when repairs are completed.”

Wodnicki said “a lot” of the work “could have been done or planned for in years gone by.”

“But this is where we are now,” Wodnicki said.

“We have discussed, debated, and argued for years now, and will continue to do so for years to come as different items come into play,” Wodnicki wrote.  

Other items noted in the letter include work on windows and doors, and upgraded lighting in hallways.

“For everyone, I acknowledge that we are talking about a huge project and a very large Assessment,” Wodnicki wrote. “Your Board of Directors is working very hard to bring this project to fruition.”

Condo board spokesperson Max Marcucci told CBS News on Tuesday: “At no time did experts either from the town or the engineering firm describe the threats as dangerous.”

“They never relayed there was an imminent threat that could cause failure to the building,” he said.

In 2018, a month after the engineer’s report was presented to residents, a city building official told the condo board that the building is “in very good shape.” The official, Ross Prieto, has since denied seeing the report.

The building collapsed early last Thursday as people inside were sleeping. Eleven people are confirmed dead and 150 remain  unaccounted for. 

Marcucci said one board member is missing along with one of her family members. Other board members are safe and focused on caring for their friends and neighbors while continuing to process the tragedy.

“It’s an incredibly difficult time for them,” he said. “We continue to pray for miracles.”


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