Evaluate prompted by the constructing’s collapse is closing the Miami Courthouse

MIAMI (AP) – The Miami-Dade County Courthouse will begin repairs immediately as safety concerns were identified during a review sparked by the fatal collapse of a nearby apartment building, officials said.

An engineering firm investigating the 28-story courthouse recommended that structural repairs be carried out immediately and floors 16 and above closed. All courthouse staff, including those who work on the lower floors, will return to work from home, Miami-Dade Mayoress Daniella Levine Cava and other leaders said in a joint statement late Friday.

In its report, engineering firm US Structures Inc. said that during its June 30 inspection it found structural stresses in various components such as girders and joists, including steel columns in “poor condition” and concrete columns with numerous cracks.

“Overall, we have been observing numerous members for some time with visible signs of structural deterioration, which this and other companies are documenting and reporting. Many of these members are in an advanced state of deterioration, ”Inspector Jose Toledo wrote in a letter from the company Tuesday to Miami-Dade District officials.

The Miami courthouse announcement came in the third week of searching for victims of the collapse of the Champlain Towers South building in nearby Surfside. On Saturday, authorities increased the confirmed death toll to 86, with 43 people still missing.

The courthouse, completed in 1928 and inscribed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, is the place where most civil cases are heard and houses some administrative offices. Separate court buildings for criminal, child and family matters are not affected.

Workers only recently returned to the building after working remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic. Court operations will revert to a remote format until security concerns are resolved. The court planned to notify people with upcoming legal proceedings of the changes.

“You have only been back in this building for a week,” Levine Cava said at a press conference on Saturday. “So you have everything you need to continue working remotely and in other locations so that it shouldn’t be much of a bother.”

Authorities did not reveal details of the specific types of repairs that would be required, and they are still planning to inspect the basement to see if additional repairs are needed.

In its report, the engineering firm warned that a pillar was on the 25th floor. Ceiling joists and slabs with cracks and flaking were also found, causing concrete parts to break off and possibly allow water to enter floors.

Miami-Dade County is in the early stages of construction of a new Civil Courthouse building and was planning to sell the current one, which has seen leaks, mold, and problems with its facade over the years. It is unclear how the new findings could affect plans to sell the building.

The building underwent an inspection following the collapse of the Champlain Towers South building on June 24 to recover the bodies of the missing and suspected dead. Levine Cava said these efforts would continue throughout Saturday despite the inclement weather, although work was suspended for about an hour on Saturday morning due to a lightning strike nearby. She also said that no asbestos was found when the rubble was searched.

“Please pray for all who have lost loved ones and for those whose hearts are broken by this unspeakable tragedy,” she said.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said crews were making good progress, particularly in clearing debris from the part of the building that did not collapse but was later demolished. That section will likely be evacuated earlier than originally expected, he said.

“It is amazing the speed at which they are working to clean up the rubble there,” he said.

Several other buildings have been checked for structural concerns and some – like a condo building in North Miami Beach – have been evacuated.

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Associate press writer Curt Anderson in St. Petersburg, Florida contributed to this report.

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