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Palm Beach County wants state to take lead on building inspection rules

High-rise condominium buildings in Palm Beach County on Oct. 19, 2021.jpg
Posted at 4:45 PM, Oct 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-19 18:14:25-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — In the wake of the deadly and devastating Surfside condominium building collapse earlier this year, Palm Beach County commissioners said Tuesday they will let the state take the lead on major inspection and safety rule revisions for high-rises on the beach.

Some communities in Palm Beach County have made their own rules on how often condos need to be inspected nd certified.

For now, commissioners said those rules should be made by the Florida Legislature when it meets in January.

The director of Palm Beach County’s Building Division said Tuesday condominium owners need to prepare for new rules when it comes to inspecting and maintaining buildings, especially for older ones.

"I think that everybody thought the program in Miami-Dade County would protect everybody. And clearly it wasn’t," said Doug Wise.

The question is, who will make the new rules: the county or the state?

A task force on inspections is giving Palm Beach County the option of a plan that includes inspecting all condos three stories and higher east of Interstate 95 every 25 years, and west of the interstate every 35 years.

It's a move Commissioner Maria Sachs calls premature.

"Let the state continue to maintain the safety and structural integrity of every condominium in the state of Florida, including Palm Beach County," Sachs said.

Other commissioners said local rules would be impractical as building officials said there is a severe shortage of experts qualified to make inspections.

"We don’t have enough structural engineers and electrical engineers to do this in the next five years," said Palm Beach County Vice Mayor Robert Weinroth.

Commissioners said that if the state fails to make new rules during it’s next session, Palm Beach County will then consider its own regulations.

Sachs is confident the state will act.

"You can’t go to sleep at night thinking we’ll, I'm okay in my building. But how about my mom who lives across the way in Sarasota? This is a state of Florida public safety issue and it’s got to be done by the state of Florida," Sachs said.

In the wake of the Surfside collapse, Palm Beach County will reach out to condo homeowner associations and ask everyone from owners to public safety officials to report problems with buildings.

But for now, commissioners want state lawmakers to make the rules of when and how often buildings are inspected.