HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Hillsborough County may soon require mandatory inspections for buildings 40-years-old and older.
Commissioners Kimberly Overman brought this up at Wednesday's county commissioners meeting, saying this is the step the county has to take to prevent a tragedy like the deadly Surfside condo collapse from happening locally
“It is stunning. When you realize how many buildings have been built in the last 35 to 40 years…. if you also think about the high rises on Bayshore, those kind of buildings have been up there for a very long time,” said Commissioner Kimberly Overman.
She said this is about making sure Hillsborough County residents know they're safe when they're in one of these buildings or living in one of the county's high-rise condominiums, like the ones on Bay Shore Blvd.
“We have multifamily housing, things that have been built for quite some time that are multi-storied. I think it is critically important that we actually look for ways that we could develop a certification process to ensure that those residents and those who work in those buildings can do so safely,” said Overman.
She is suggesting the county model their process after Broward and Miami-Dade Counties’ building safety inspection program, which requires buildings over the age of 40 to be evaluated.
“I’m asking staff to look at their programs, to discern based on the type of constructions we have already in Hillsborough County, and determine if the program they have can be held here…," said Overman. "Approaching it with a staggered process of implementing it and dealing with those buildings that have the greatest amount of risk."
Overman continued, "In other words, the buildings with the highest occupancy and age, and go through the process of going through all of the buildings that would be potentially in need of being certified. Then, adopting a process where every 10 years, those buildings would be recertified for safety."
She said this is important because older buildings may not have been constructed with the same kind of standards we have now, even to address things like hurricanes and flooding.
Locals like Brandy Corely Jones support mandatory inspections. She used to live in a building that had annual inspections.
"We had them every three to five years," she said. "They checked our balconies, walkways, and our structure."
That's exactly what the county inspectors will check if the county does make this mandatory.
"The state's new building standards have been designed with worst-case scenario in mind," said David Ferrill.
Ferrill owns Ferrill construction. He primarily builds single-family homes. He said the standards are basically the same for high-rise buildings, "just on a much larger scale."
He understands the need for mandatory inspections, but he has some concerns.
"I don't know how this will work when you consider government, the private side, homeowners association, and the cost, " he said. "It will be a very difficult system to implement."
The county staff will be working to answer those questions while researching to see if mandatory inspections will work in Hillsborough County.