The feud between the town of Surfside and Miami-Dade County has been brewing for weeks, and it’s not getting better.
The Champlain Towers site is off-limits to the public, but also to the town’s hired structural engineering expert, Allyn Kilsheimer.
“We need to get into the dirt. We need to understand the foundation systems for that building, no one knows what’s there because there were alternates in the drawings," Kilsheimer said, "it is inconceivable to me that we are not allowed to do that work.”
Charles Burkett, Mayor of Surfside said that Kilsheimer is "the best there is. He’s the guy that should be looking at this and telling us why that building fell down built since day one, he’s not been allowed to do that.”
“The odds are very small that we get another collapse in the town, but we can’t afford to have lightning strike twice,” Burkett said.
Kilsheimer’s so frustrated, he’s packing up his things and flying home Friday.
To add insult to the town’s injury, the county is advertising for a “structural consultant that has first-hand experience with structural evaluation” when Kilsheimer and his team have been raring to go for weeks.
From Surfside’s perspective, now that all the victims have been recovered, the priority is finding out why Champlain Towers South collapsed and whether any other buildings, especially the near-carbon copy Champlain Towers North, are in danger.
“It seems very apparent that it was much more than a maintenance issue at that property, there was something else going on at that property and that’s what the fear is,” Burkett said. “Mayor Cava has worked her heart out, she’s done a great job, but I think now she’s a bit distracted by other things, I mean it seem as though the urgency is passed.”
On Tuesday, Burkett sent a blistering letter to Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniela Levine-Cava, saying in part, “We want to make it absolutely clear that we object to being denied access to the site.”
The county says the site is still a crime scene with evidentiary value. Levine-Cava sent a statement saying Surfside can have access, “as soon as it’s possible to do so without compromising the investigation of the site.”
“I think you can balance both concerns there and not really damage one or the other,” said Pablo Rodriguez, who lost his mother and his grandmother in the collapse, giving us a victim’s point of view.
“It’s, you know, devastating to hear that this is already stalling, a little over a month after it happened but it’s not unexpected, it’s one of the fears that I had and why I try to keep this at the forefront,” Rodriguez said.
He went on to say the families want to see investigations proceed into the cause of the collapse and they also want accountability.
“Protecting the evidence is really what I think should be one of the top priorities while the investigation are ongoing,” Rodriguez said.
A federal agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, is investigating the collapse but typically, it takes years to reach conclusions. That’s way too slow for the Town of Surfside.