HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – There was concern and harsh words aimed at a South Florida building department Monday.
An engineer called the City of Hallandale Beach Building Department dysfunctional and incompetent in the wake of the Champlain Towers South collapse.
Residents of The Hemispheres want to get repairs done as soon as possible, but one of the biggest obstacles seems to be simply getting permits.
The pool is closed and below it, in the parking garage, concrete began falling just last week.
It’s a scary situation for residents at the Hallandale Beach condos.
“The concrete is falling which means there is more spalling, and the extent of the damage may be far greater,” said 45-year resident and current board member Dr. Barbara Drabkin.
Based on her experience, Drabkin expects obstacles, but not from the board.
“The city has stymied every attempt to get permits on these major projects,” she said.
She’s not the only one.
After the Surfside collapse, The Hemispheres held a town hall with their engineers to update residents on current projects and concerns.
Contractors were blunt with residents as to why certain things aren’t moving ahead.
“They are incompetent,” structural engineer Hector Guerra said. “They don’t say anything, they don’t talk to us, they don’t know how to write comments in their own log, they don’t know how to review blueprints.”
The Hemispheres is currently going through $32 million worth of renovations.
Major assessments were approved after the building’s 40-year rectification.
Roofs, elevators, concrete restoration, waterproofing and garage repairs were all approved.
The six-year project has been ongoing.
“I submitted the same drawings for the same roof three times and one roof took a year to permit and we already finished two other roofs,” Guerra said.
The Hemispheres was built in the early 1970′s. There are four towers; two directly on the ocean and two located on the intracoastal, totaling 1,298 apartments, plus a marina.
“I have walked into the building department and signed and sealed with my crimper, my signature,” Guerra said. “And your board member will tell you, and they said they lost my signature.”
Then there’s the seawall at the marina, which is collapsing and in need of immediate repair and replacement.
A contractor was hired back in March, and he said documents were submitted to the city in April.
“And since then we have been in a holding pattern with the City of Hallandale, which we found to be a little bit, let’s call it difficult to get the permit through, even if we sent all the required documentation,” said project engineer Leonard Barbara Allen.
All of this is leaving some residents saying they are frightened to death.
So what is going on in the city building department?
Local 10 News has learned the head building official was recently let go and two clerks resigned.
“Our building official was let go,” Mayor Joy Cooper said.
“We do have a staffing shortage that we are quickly working on that will get us back to a more appropriate level service,” said Vanessa Leroy, the Development Services Director for Hallandale Beach. “We are aware of the delays there may have been and we are working on that.”
Leroy was asked directly by Local 10 News’ Jeff Weinsier what she has to say to the residents and contractor from The Hemispheres.
“We are working on getting you your permits,” she replied. “I have been aware of them and working on them individually, as well.”
Leroy also said they are revamping the department.
“We had a restructuring,” she said. “A plan has been in the works for two to three weeks.”
Engineers have told residents at The Hemispheres that their buildings are structurally safe, but a resident told Weinsier off-camera to remember that a Surfside building official told Champlain residents something similar back in 2018.