The year before a 12-story building collapsed in south Florida that left at least 79 dead and 61 still unaccounted for, the state collected $13.7 million in fees from condominium owners associations, vacation timeshares and mobile home parks, but swept $5 million into the state’s general fund, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.
Those funds, collected at the beginning of every year, are supposed to go toward educating board members and reviewing complaints, but the state has made a habit of siphoning off the funds.
Since 2008, the state has diverted $65 million of the $167 million that has been taxed, nearly 40%, into the general fund, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
“For years, we’ve said please don’t sweep that fund,” Travis Moore, a lobbyist that represents Florida condo owners associations through the Community Associations Institutes, told the local newspaper. “But every year, the Legislature reallocates that money.”
The diversion of money into the state’s general fund adds to the growing fear that many warning signs of structural problems at Champlain Towers South may have been disregarded before the building came crashing down in the middle of the night on June 24.
Search and rescue personnel remove remains on a stretcher as they work atop the rubble at the Champlain Towers South condo building where scores of people remain missing more than a week after it partially collapsed, Friday, July 2, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Jean Wodnicki, the president of the building’s condo association, warned residents just two months before the structure collapsed that more than $15 million in repairs were necessary.
“A lot of this work could have been done or planned for in years gone by,” Wodnicki wrote in the April 9 letter, which was originally reported by the Wall Street Journal. “But this is where we are now.”
A 2018 report by Morabito Consultants said that improperly laid waterproofing was preventing water from running off under the building’s pool deck.
“The failed waterproofing is causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas,” the report said. “Failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially.”
As investigators try to understand why this building collapsed and whether other buildings in Florida are unsafe, search teams at the site have switched to a recovery effort after saying Wednesday that there is “no chance of life” more than two weeks after the collapse.
Rescue teams are still working in 12-hour shifts, 24 hours a day to find the 61 victims who are unaccounted for.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.