Real Florida failures are hitting near us (guest perspective)

The sudden collapse of the Champlain Towers Condominium in Surfside, Florida the past week has left more than 121 people missing, 24 dead and countless people affected at the time of writing. Structural issues first seen in a 2018 inspection are examined as a potential cause of destruction, but for now, the focus remains on clearing up the rubble and identifying victims and survivors . Investigating the collapse will likely take months and may not find any definitive cause.

As we watched the situation evolve and more information about the warning signs available was revealed, we remember the failures of the concrete infrastructure that remains in place here in the northeast where thousands of houses deteriorate as a result of a rare iron sulphide ore, pyrrhotite, in the concrete aggregate. When exposed to water and oxygen, the mineral expands, causing concrete to crack into a canvas shape until it degrades and shatters. Although the mineral is rare, it is estimated that up to 2,000 homes in central and western Massachusetts have been built with the material, and Connecticut has documented and started the process of repairing more than 1,600 affected homes. going back to last year. Massachusetts currently has a foundation testing reimbursement program in place, reimbursing visual inspections and core samples by licensed engineers, but no mechanism to fund the actual repairs needed to keep these homes habitable. The most proven solution to the problem today is to lift the house off the existing foundation and replace it with an unaffected one, at a cost of $ 150,000 to $ 250,000 per house.

The collapse of the Champlain Towers was a problem that could have been solved if the necessary funds had been spent and repairs made. The structural problems identified in 2018 remained unresolved and unchecked until they reached a literal breaking point, a deadly event that is impossible to assess in hindsight. In this case, however, they had one: $ 16.2 million for the total repair and restoration at a cost to homeowners ranging from $ 80,000 for a one-bedroom unit to over $ 300,000 for the home. penthouse suite. High costs, of course, especially for people who had purchased the units without knowing the underlying structural issues or the devastation that could arise if left unchecked.

Much like the process with the pyrrhotite, this was a slow disaster where the natural elements exposed problems in the construction of the building until the materials inevitably failed. Although the science surrounding the type of decomposition is different, the result is the same: concrete deteriorates, people are displaced, and lives are changed forever.

With nearly $ 5 billion in American Rescue Plan Act stimulus funds available to the state, we are in a unique position where we may be able to quickly close monetary deficits and direct funding. towards projects that pay immediate dividends to our constituents. Placed in a fund that will be allocated by the legislature, this money could become available in the near future and have a huge impact in our communities.

With this influx of funding, it is imperative that we examine the issues affecting homeowners that have not been addressed, and we believe the deterioration of homes in our state needs attention. We should not hesitate to act on this issue because of the price tag – the high initial cost of each individual repair – especially at a time when the state is bursting with cash. Instead of continuing to debate the merits of spending money to help affected families, discussing who should be responsible for footing the bill after the courts have ruled that neither the contractors nor the insurance companies nor the bankrupt concrete supplier can be held responsible, we can devote the money from this federal financing fund to help them directly. It is not an incredible thought; as previously mentioned, the state of Connecticut established a reimbursement program for the exact same problem, sourced from the same supplier and conducted by spending over $ 120 million on repairs. It simply requires the attention and action of the leaders of our state, at a time when inaction would be immoral.

House and Senate leaders plan to hold public hearings and gather feedback on how to spend the funding going forward, and we urge our colleagues to stand up for these Massachusetts families who were helped directly against the dream. American to own a home which you can call your own. These people have done everything right, taken all the necessary steps on the path to homeownership, which many consider to be their greatest asset in life. Failure to help them would be to let the results of a natural disaster affect an area without state or federal government assistance – a tornado path that destroys Main Street and is never repaired while the value of the houses fall and the city suffers. By appropriating this money for future repayment, we are enabling these people to move forward, safely, to rehabilitating their homes and giving them the stability they need without waiting for a tragic collapse. in our own state to incite action.

Anne M. Gobi is State Senator for the Districts of Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire and Middlesex. Brian ashe is the State Representative for the Second District of Hampden.

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