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Hillsborough commissioner seeks expedited building inspection rules

Commissioner Kimberly Overman wants to act rather than wait for the state Legislature.
Rescue workers work in the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo in Surfside in this June 25, file photo. A Hillsborough County commissioner asked for a local building recertification program in the aftermath of the collapse.
Rescue workers work in the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo in Surfside in this June 25, file photo. A Hillsborough County commissioner asked for a local building recertification program in the aftermath of the collapse. [ GERALD HERBERT | AP ]
Published Oct. 20

TAMPA — When it comes to building safety, Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman has a message: Don’t wait for the state.

Overman is seeking a county version of the building recertification programs in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Her request first came in July, in the aftermath of the Surfside condominium collapse that left 98 people dead.

“I think it’s incumbent on us to look at how we might adopt some type of program to recertify a building,” Overman told the rest of the commission Wednesday.

LUIS SANTANA   |   Times
Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman, shown in a June 18 photo, is seeking a county ordinance requiring recertification of buildings in the aftermath of a South Florida condominium collapse that killed 98 people.
LUIS SANTANA | Times Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman, shown in a June 18 photo, is seeking a county ordinance requiring recertification of buildings in the aftermath of a South Florida condominium collapse that killed 98 people. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

Her comments followed a staff update on developing the recertification effort. A draft version of the ordinance could be ready for commissioners in January, according to the report from Adam Gormly, director of development services.

A potential hold-up could be proposed legislation expected to be considered by state lawmakers when they convene in January. But even if the Legislature acts, Overman said a new state law might not become effective until July 1, 2022. She is seeking a quicker turnaround.

Her priority when she started, Overman said, “is to not regret the loss of life when there is an older building or a building that would be subject to structural challenge and actually cause the loss of life.”

The Florida Building Commission — which is responsible for analyzing construction design, materials and technology in promulgating the Florida Building Code — is working with the International Code Council to produce guidelines for local governments seeking a building safety recertification program, Gormley said.

Related: Commissioner seeks reinspection rules after Surfside condo collapse

Miami-Dade devised its program after the 1974 collapse at a federal Drug Enforcement Agency structure in downtown Miami left seven dead and 20 injured. Broward County followed suit in 2005. It requires structural and safety inspections of residential buildings 40 years old and reinspections every 10 years afterward.

The 12-story Champlain Towers South beachfront condominium was in the middle of its 40-year reinspection when it collapsed in June.

Earlier this week, a Florida Bar task force recommended the Legislature overhaul the state’s condominium laws to address inspections and ensure proper reserves are in place to make major safety repairs.

Overman said the county rules also should require building owners to have appropriate resources available to make the repairs necessary to keep a building safe.

If Hillsborough followed the Miami-Dade criteria, the number of buildings to be inspected likely numbers in the thousands, said the county report.