By Tao Woolfe
High-rise buildings will come under closer scrutiny in the coming months thanks to a new Boynton Beach ordinance that mandates thorough structural safety inspections for residential buildings 25 years or older.
The City Commission unanimously adopted the Building Milestone Inspection Program at its Nov. 14 meeting. Some 200 structures — many of them along the city’s eastern edge — could be affected by the measure.
“Most of the buildings along Federal were constructed in the ’70s and ’80s,” city building official John Kuntzman told the commissioners. “There are eight buildings on the barrier island that were all built in the ’70s.”
The barrier island buildings are within St. Andrews, he said.
Boynton Beach, like many other municipalities in South Florida, is strengthening local regulations in hopes of avoiding a building collapse like that of the 12-story Champlain Towers South beachfront condo in the Miami suburb of Surfside.
Building department staff researched how to strengthen recent state legislation that created milestone inspection requirements for multistory residential condominium and cooperatively owned buildings that are 25 years or older and are located within 3 miles of the coastline.
Boynton Beach added other building types that must be vetted — requiring buildings taller than three stories and larger than 5,000 square feet to be included — and increased the reach of the ordinance to all residential buildings 25 years or older within the city limits.
Once homeowner associations have been served with notice from the city that their buildings qualify for recertification, they will have a year to schedule an inspection by a qualified engineer, Assistant City Manager Adam Temple said.
Once the engineer’s report has been submitted to the city, building owners will have 180 days to make the repairs and be recertified for safety compliance.
The city will offer expedited permit procedures for buildings in need of repairs, Temple said.
The state Legislature’s bill makes the repairs mandatory and places the responsibility of ensuring the work is completed on the unit owners and homeowner associations.
“They wouldn’t be required to bring the building up to current standards, but they will have to make them safer,” Temple said.
In answer to a question about how buildings near the ocean are affected by hurricanes, Kuntzman said salt intrusion is a bigger threat than wind.
“Once the salt gets into concrete, it soaks in,” he said. “Sooner or later, the salt will hit the steel.”
The building official was referring to the steel reinforcing rods, or rebar, that strengthen concrete under tension.
The mandatory inspections are expected to include infrared thermography or X-ray that allows inspectors to look beneath surfaces for such problems as moisture infiltration, insulation gaps and separation of wall layers.
The city’s recertification program requirements were suggested by building department staff after “a yearlong effort of coordination amongst all of Palm Beach County’s building officials,” according to the draft proposal.
“The purpose of this new program is to maintain the structural integrity of buildings throughout [their] service life ... so as to not pose a threat to the public health, safety, or welfare,” the proposal says.
Buildings that are exempted from the ordinance include townhomes with three or fewer stories; school buildings; and federal, state and local municipal buildings.
More police to be equipped with body- and dash-cams
The City Commission voted unanimously at its Nov. 14 meeting to sign a five-year, $2.9 million contract with Axon Enterprises, to supply more body cams and dash cams to all Boynton Beach police officers.
At the moment, the department has 80 body cams, which are worn by patrol officers. That number will increase to 125 body cameras under the new contract, Police Chief Joe DeGiulio told the commissioners. Also, 100 dashboard cameras will be placed in patrol cars, which will also be equipped with new Tasers.
Civil suit filed against city by family of dead teen
The family of Stanley Davis III has filed a civil suit against the city of Boynton Beach in U.S. District Court.
The wrongful death suit accuses the city and former Police Officer Mark Sohn of violating the constitutional rights of Davis, a 13-year-old boy who was killed in a dirt bike incident just after Christmas last year.
The boy was fleeing from a patrol car, driven by Sohn, when he crashed into a sign in a concrete median. Sohn was fired in August. He has filed a grievance against the city for wrongful termination and is seeking reinstatement.
The lawsuit alleges that the city should have fired Sohn earlier, especially since there had been numerous complaints about the officer, including another death resulting from a high-speed chase.
Members of the Black community, including the youngster’s family, friends and supporters, had for months asked the City Commission to fire those responsible for the tragedy.
Civil rights attorney Benjamin Lloyd Crump is representing the family and estate of Stanley Davis.