KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Some 72 units in a three-story Central Florida condominium complex were deemed unsafe after a building inspection found the walkways leading to the condos were at risk of collapsing, officials said.
An engineering firm found some of the walkways at Images Condominiums in Kissimmee were “in danger of collapse,” Osceola County spokesperson Chris Brumbaugh told the Orlando Sentinel.
The finding comes a week after the Champlain Towers South in Surfside partially collapsed, killing 18 while the number of people still unaccounted for stands at 145.
Residents at the condominium complex in Kissimmee were advised to enter the buildings at their own risk, the newspaper reported.
The engineering firm, Born Engineers, alerted the county directly on Tuesday after no action had been taken since the April inspection, emails show. Once the county visited the property, action was taken to notify residents.
Property records showed the complex, which houses about 145 units, was built in 1990.
Jennifer Dodd returned to her unit Thursday afternoon to pick up family photos and clothes.
“It’s really shocking and it’s upsetting,” Dodd said.
She lives in one of the buildings deemed unsafe.
“We’re just not getting any straightforward answers as to what the actual problems are, so we don’t know how dangerous the situation is, how permanent it is. Are we talking about a week of repairs, a month?” Dodd said.
According to a county spokesperson, three buildings made up of 72 units were declared unsafe Wednesday morning.
Residents from 54 of the 72 impacted units have connected with county staff to secure 14-day hotel accommodations, according to Brumbaugh.
News 6 obtained pictures of the structural damage from the Osceola County permit center and also obtained an email from an architecture firm that was hired by the condo association to make some repairs.
According to the email, which is dated April 30, the firm found balcony floors that have cracked and settled in two of the buildings.
The email to the condo association said they also found “significantly rotted wood framing and rotted plywood sub floor” under a concrete slab.
The firm wrote in the email that “these areas are unsafe and in danger of collapse.” The firm told the condo association the repairs could cost several hundred thousand dollars.
An email sent to chief inspector at Osceola County Williams Grimes on Tuesday from Born Engineers president Todd Born said the firm had not heard back from the complex owners following the April inspection and were “concerned that nothing is being done.”
“The walkways are in danger of collapse and could represent a threat to the safety of the public,” Born wrote. “I am writing to you to make you aware of the condition.”
News 6 spoke to the architecture firm who said they sent the condo association a proposal for repairs, which was forwarded to the board, but they haven’t heard from the complex since then.
The firm said in light of the building collapse in South Florida, the structural engineer who checked out the buildings earlier this year alerted officials with Osceola County about the issues this week.
“I guess the county is trying to keep everyone out to stay safe, so we don’t have that happen here because nobody wants that,” Dodd said.
The county and Red Cross are assisting the residents, including providing temporary housing.
The county said the condo association will be responsible for making the repairs. News 6 saw crews at the complex on Thursday working on the buildings. News 6 called and emailed the condo association for comment, but we haven’t heard back.
Osceola County has contacted the attorney for the condo association and received permission to inspect the remaining eight buildings in the complex.
According to county records, prior to Wednesday, there were no code violations reported for the previous 10 years.
On Friday, a representative for Images Condominium provided this statement to News 6:
“Images Condominium is aware of the notice provided by the Osceola County Building Department on Wednesday, June 30th. Images takes this matter very seriously, and there is nothing more important than the safety and welfare of our residents. We are working diligently with all parties, including Osceola County, to address any and all concerns. The Association has retained structural engineers and building contractors to investigate and make repairs throughout the condominium. The Association will take all measures necessary to ensure that the building is structurally sound and safe for its residents.”