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Maryland consulting firm that warned of Florida condo damage says repairs were underway, had not begun on cracked concrete

The Maryland consulting firm that had warned of structural damage to the Miami-area condominium tower that collapsed Thursday morning said repairs were underway on the roof but restoration of cracked and broken concrete in the building had not yet begun.

Sparks-based Morabito Consultants, which found significant cracks and breaks in the luxury oceanfront building’s concrete during a 2018 inspection, said the condo association hired it again last June to develop a repair and restoration plan.

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“We at Morabito Consultants are saddened by the tragic events that have occurred at Champlain Towers South Condominium,” the firm said in a statement. “Our hearts and prayers go out to everyone affected by this event.”

The 12-story, 130-apartment building collapsed during the early morning hours Thursday while many residents likely were asleep. At least 10 people have been confirmed dead in the wreckage, while about 150 remain missing.

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Search and rescue personnel search for survivors through the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condominium in Surfside, Florida, on Sunday.
Search and rescue personnel search for survivors through the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condominium in Surfside, Florida, on Sunday. (David Santiago/Miami Herald/TNS)

“At the time of the building collapse, roof repairs were underway, but concrete restoration had not yet begun,” said Morabito’s statement, which noted that the firm offers engineering consulting but not construction-related contracting. “We are deeply troubled by this building collapse and are working closely with the investigating authorities to understand why the structure failed.”

It’s still not clear why the building collapsed or whether any of the structural issues identified by Morabito were related to what happened.

The firm had been hired by the condo association in 2018 to assess the integrity of the high-end condominium complex, in which residents had been complaining about water leaking into their units. The consultant, with nearly four decades of experience inspecting high-rise residential and commercial buildings, schools and health care facilities, was retained to prepare a 40-year recertification of the building, as required by Miami-Dade County and the town of Surfside.

The nine-page report in 2018 detailed “significant cracks and breaks in the concrete, which required repairs to ensure the safety of the residents and the public,” the firm said in its statement. The report found that failed waterproofing beneath the pool was “causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas.”

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A review of the parking garage found damaged columns, beams and walls, with an abundance of cracking and “spalling,” a condition when thin layers of concrete become detached from the surface.

“Though some of this damage is minor,” Morabito wrote, “most of the concrete deterioration needs to be repaired in a timely fashion.”

The consultant sent its report to the condo association Oct. 8, 2018, outlining recommendations and an estimate of costs of repairs.

Kenneth S. Direktor, an attorney representing the condominium association told The New York Times that the repairs the consulting firm recommended had been scheduled to begin soon. Direktor told the newspaper that the condominium’s board of directors and other residents had not realized that the structural issues were a serious threat.

The condo association hired Morabito again last June to prepare a detailed plan for repairs and restoration.

Condo owners were facing a July 1 deadline to start making payments toward more than $9 million in major repairs that Morabito recommended, the Associated Press reported. Owners were required to pay from $80,000 for a one-bedroom unit to about $330,000 for a penthouse, to be paid all at once or in installments, the AP said.

A bucket brigade works Monday to remove debris from the Champlain Towers South Condominium collapse in Surfside, Florida.
A bucket brigade works Monday to remove debris from the Champlain Towers South Condominium collapse in Surfside, Florida. (Joe Cavaretta/TNS)

Adalberto Aguero, a resident whose apartment was spared, told the Associated Press he 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,” Aguero told the Associated Press, adding that he pulled paperwork to make the installment payments a day after Thursday’s collapse. “I said cancel everything.”

According to Morabito’s estimate, the garage, entrance and pool deck remediation would cost nearly $4 million, while facade remediation would cost $3.1 million.

The family-owned Morabito firm, which has offices in Sparks and Palm Beach Gardens in Florida, has worked on high-visibility projects in the Baltimore area, including renovations of the Hippodrome Theatre and Maryland Science Center, according to the company website.

A spokesman for the firm said the consultants had no comment beyond the statement.

In the statement, Morabito said it wanted to thank the first responders and search-and-rescue teams “who are working tirelessly to save the lives of the many who are still unaccounted for.”

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