Thursday, July 19, 2018
News Roundup

Leaks found at affordable house project in Tampa

TAMPA — Just one year after it officially opened, water is leaking into at least 25 apartments in one of the city's signature affordable housing projects, a consultant has found.

The preliminary report on conditions at the Reed at Encore, a seven-story senior living center on the edge of downtown Tampa, found evidence of water damage to baseboards, door jambs and drywall, and possible window seal leaks. At least one apartment may have mold as a result of the damp conditions, the report by IBA Consultants found.

The $31 million center was built by the Siltek Group, a Plantation general contractor that the Tampa Housing Authority and its development partner fired this summer while it was completing the neighboring Tempo at Encore apartment tower.

A more detailed report is being compiled to determine where water is intruding. Contractors will use high pressure water sprays and infrared sensors to track where water is spreading behind walls.

Juan Felipe, a 62-year-old resident, noticed that a wall and the ceiling in his bedroom were damp several months ago.

After conducting tests to find the source of the leak, workers about two months ago repaired the damp surfaces and used a machine to remove humidity from his room.

Housing authority emails show that concerns about damp and water intrusion have been ongoing for several months. In June, officials compiled a list of defects they planned to send to Siltek to request repairs.

It showed rainwater leaking from the pool into hallways, exterior leaks into the community meeting room and manager's office, and numerous leaks into apartments on upper floors.

Under state law, Siltek must be given the chance to make repairs before it can be sued for construction defects.

The authority and its development partner, Banc of America Community Development Corp., took a first step in that process Sept. 29, sending Siltek a copy of the preliminary report and a notice of claim letter.

"Given the potential for contamination of the property's units and common areas with mold and mildew, which pose serious risks to the health and welfare of the property's residents and guests, the owner intends to treat these conditions as 'health safety and welfare' construction defects that will require 'necessary emergency repairs,' '' a letter from attorneys at Stearns Weaver Miller stated.

Attorneys at the firm declined to comment for this report.

The letter was also sent to Berkley Regional Insurance Company, which provided the surety bond for the project.

Reed is a fully bonded project, meaning Berkley will likely have to handle repairs that the contractor refuses to make.

The housing authority and its development partner are also expected to sue Siltek for its work on the $25.6 million Tempo project. Siltek was fired from the project in June with Tempo still surrounded by scaffolding and only about three-quarters complete.

A default letter sent to Siltek listed its failure to fully staff the project, inadequate supervision of subcontractors and project delays among the issues for the termination.

Another concern was that Rene Sierra, onetime project manager of Tempo for Siltek, pled guilty in federal court to inflating invoices so he could pay kickbacks of $6.2 million to the developers of affordable housing projects through his company, Siltek Affordable Housing. He is due to be sentenced later this year.

Ana Silviera-Sierra, the president of Siltek and the wife of Sierra, did not return a call seeking comment.

Contact Christopher O'Donnell at [email protected] or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.

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