By Joe Capozzi 

Tempers flared at a South Palm Beach special magistrate’s hearing April 21 when the town attorney challenged a private structural engineer over the severity of sea-wall erosion at the Dune Deck condominium.
The erosion issues were first brought to the condo’s attention in 2018 by structural engineer Bijan Parssi, whose report at the time recommended repairs “to maintain the structural integrity of the sea wall.’’
In March, a concerned Dune Deck resident notified the town that repairs had still not been made. The town investigated and cited the Dune Deck for code violations. 
At a special magistrate hearing in March, a condo official said no repairs could be done until after sea turtle nesting season, which ends Oct. 31. At the town’s request, special magistrate Amity Barnard gave the Dune Deck one month to send the town a letter from the Department of Environmental Protection confirming the no-work order. 
But a month later the condo sent the town a DEP letter that only generally outlined state laws about nesting season without mentioning the condition of the sea wall at the Dune Deck. 
At the April 21 hearing, Parssi and a condo attorney disputed the town’s contention that the building was unsafe — a contention Dune Deck officials did not dispute at the March hearing, which Parssi attended without offering testimony.
Town Attorney Aleksandr Boksner read the conclusion of the 2018 engineering report in which Parssi described “numerous areas of corroded steel throughout the entire sea wall’’ along with a need for repairs “to maintain the structural integrity of the sea wall.’’
When Boksner told the special magistrate the conditions are “unsafe,’’ Parssi and a condo attorney took issue with that interpretation.
“I am telling you it is not unsafe. It is not going to come down. It needs to be repaired. We have said that it needs to be repaired,’’ Parssi said. “If it was unsafe, I wouldn’t be standing here today.’’
Boksner pointed out that no repairs have been made in the four years since the report was written. “And here we are today, saying ‘Oh, it’s not that bad. It just needs to be repaired,’’’ he said. 
Raising his voice, Boksner continued, “And, yes, I am making an argument that it is structurally unsafe. It was structurally unsafe in 2018 and it is more so now, sir.’’ 
Parssi retorted, in a louder voice, “Do you have a structural engineer license?’’ 
The two men talked over each other for a few seconds before the special magistrate interrupted and said, “Let’s take it down one level.’’ 
At the end of the debate, Barnard slapped at least $3,300 in fines on the Dune Deck for failing to comply with a previous order to seek state permission to repair an eroding sea wall during sea turtle nesting season.
If the DEP determines the repairs can be made during sea turtle nesting season, Barnard said, there’s a chance the $100-a-day fines can be reduced or eliminated. 
The town has been trying diligently to address condo repairs since the Champlain Towers collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside in June. Over the past 10 months, three other South Palm Beach condos have been cited for erosion problems, all of which have been repaired. 
Speaking about the Dune Deck case, Boksner told the special magistrate, “The town does not want to have a situation where, God forbid, something were to happen.’’
Earlier in the April 21 hearing, Boknser said, “Considering how we are over four years and no work has been done, in the event something were to happen … that would ultimately be a very, very big problem.’’
Barnard also expressed unease about the condo’s failure to formally submit an application to the DEP for repairs. 
“How much longer is it going to take to get through the process is my concern,’’ she said. “I’m not an engineer but if there is a safety concern, that is a serious thing. The fact that there was a report that said there needed to be maintenance and there has been no maintenance in four years and the condition on the sea wall is the same as it was back then, that’s concerning.’’
The case is scheduled to be reviewed again by the special magistrate on May 19.

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