Four weeks from the pre-dawn hours since the name “Surfside” became synonymous with “condo collapse,” Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said the deadly tragedy that has transfixed the nation is not an isolated incident and could easily happen again given the state of Florida’s buildings and its inspection laws.
“I refuse to allow the lives that we have lost, the families that have been disrupted, from being in vain,” Fried said, addressing the media at a state Agriculture Department building. “We have to take action. This is not a one-off situation.”
Fried called on Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to convene a statewide panel to examine the state’s inventory of older buildings, the effects of deregulating building inspections and other issues, such as how sea level rise is affecting coastal buildings.
DeSantis’ press secretary said the Governor will wait for a definitive cause of the collapse before determining what action could prevent another. The state has offered resources in determining how it happened, Christina Pushaw said on the Governor’s behalf.
“If an investigation determines that the collapse was caused — in part or in whole — by factors that could be mitigated via state-level policy change, Gov. DeSantis would certainly give due consideration to any proposed reforms that could prevent such a tragedy from happening again,” Pushaw said, saying that Fried’s call for regulatory changes was “reckless” given that not all the facts about the collapse are known.
Fried previously noted condo inspection deregulation happened in 2010. She did not mention it specifically at Friday’s news conference, but a 2008 law was repealed that year. It had required condo associations to hire engineers or architects to report on the cost of needed repairs. Those reports, presumably, could have helped Surfside’s board prepare for the repairs some estimates put at $15 million.
Fried’s opponent in the Democratic Primary, then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, signed the repeal into law but Fried did not address his role Friday.
The condo collapse at Surfside has propelled more inspections that have shown another tragedy could have been around the corner. A two-story Coral Springs building full of renters was ordered to evacuate Thursday after years of disrepair, Fried said. Days after the Surfside collapse, the 156-unit building was immediately closed after an inspection found unsafe structural and electrical conditions.
“We have a moral obligation to stand up, stand together to fix this so no other families go through what these families have gone through in the last month,” Fried said.
Fried spoke for nine minutes, took two questions and then was called away for an urgent phone call Friday.