Building official was on roof before tragedy

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The Surfside construction official said Friday he was on the roof of Champlain Towers South 14 hours before the collapse and said there was “no excessive amount of equipment or materials” that would cause the building to collapse.

Jim McGuinness, who made the comment during a Town of Surfside emergency meeting, said he was on the roof to review work on replacing roof anchors that window cleaners attach their equipment to.

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Surfside Building official Jim McGuinness speaks to commissioners on Champlain Towers South on Friday June 25th.

The building collapsed, four dead and 159 people missing late Friday.

“There wasn’t an inordinate amount of equipment or material or anything on this roof that would grab my construction official’s attention and make it alarming for this place to collapse,” he said.

“I have two words for the cause: under investigation,” said McGuinness.

Also during the afternoon session, the Surfside City Commission said it was considering measures to ensure high-rise buildings in the city are safe.

These changes could include the inspection of buildings that could start with Champlain Towers North.

“It would be unwise not to take steps to address this issue with the sister building,” Mayor Charles Burkett said during the meeting.

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Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett at an emergency city commission meeting on June 25th.

Like the South Tower, the North Tower was built in 1981 before the devastating force of Hurricane Andrew led to changes in state building codes.

Burkett said he spoke with Senator Rick Scott, Miami-Dade Mayor, Daniella Levine Cava and McGuinness about potentially removing residents from the north tower.

“I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘Look, is my building safe?'” Said Burkett.

The mayor noted that relocating these residents could be “inconvenient”.

People embrace outside the Surfside Community Center as they wait for news on June 25, 2021 in Surfside, Florida.  The twelve-story Champlain Towers South apartment building partially collapsed on Thursday in Surfside, Florida.  (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

“But since we have no idea what caused this collapse – and listen, the likelihood of this happening again is like a lightning strike – but I don’t know if there is anyone in this room who would be willing to roll the dice with all these lives and say let’s not worry for a while, ”he said.

Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer pointed out that what happened may be beyond her control, saying that construction work in surrounding communities with varying height requirements could affect their existing buildings.

“Overdevelopment, development, has a ripple effect,” she said. “Even though we keep our buildings low, we suffer from the effects of development around us.”

Salzhauer also demanded that the city shorten the period for the recertification of buildings by 40 years and that a soil survey called a “geotechnical profile” be carried out as part of this inspection.

“When these rules were introduced, global warming was imaginary. The rise in sea levels wasn’t a thing. People assumed that the ground under the building would stay the same forever and we know that is not true, ”she said. “While we have the ear of our lawmakers, while we have the ear of the governor, while we have the ear of the president, let’s make these changes.”

Your colleagues agreed.

“We have to do things now to make sure that this never happens again,” said Commissioner Nelly Velasquez.

Every 40 years, building owners are required to have their building inspected by an outside engineer for recertification, which is part of the Miami Dade Act. McGuinness said the owners of the south tower had completed the inspection for the 40-year recertification, but the city had no results yet.

“Hurricane Andrew changed Florida building codes forever. So this terrible tragedy, which is a national tragedy, will change the building codes related to certification and all existing buildings, ”said McGuinness.

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