Remember our Head Engineer’s dire warning two years ago, “Prepare for the worst”? Well, despite the Milazzo-led Board’s efforts to sweep our concrete problem under the rug, thanks to the dogged perseverance of former Board Director Asia Gajderowicz, we are finally preparing. Something’s being done. A “Plus Whatever They Find” contract has been approved to fix the cracking concrete.
By way of background…
At the October 11, 2014 111 East Chestnut Condominium Board Meeting, Head Engineer Robert Ceci, said: “If you own an A unit on floors 18 through 26, you should prepare for the worst. We have concrete compromises presently in units 22A and 26A.” Property Manager Rudnik then added units “23 and 27, too.”
As Ceci described, when the building was first constructed in 1977, “floors 18 through 25 were poured during a very bad winter.” In the past, the North-East corners and the kitchens in units 25A and 26A needed new rebar. Ceci said, “They had to take out the entire floor; you could see right through to unit below.”
Of course, your board under the direction of part-time 111 resident Tony Milazzo was all over it and ready to tackle the problem. NOT. Milazzo & Friends budgeted to look into it; rationalized a believable excuse; and then buried it. Evil genius, the Board left it up to the unit owner, knowing that owners wouldn’t have it fixed or would forever postpone repair. Problem with that approach is: the concrete is common element; it’s a serious structural problem that only gets worse; and water travels, i.e. it only given time effects/damages other units.
Expanding on Ceci’s narrative, some 40 bitter Winters ago during construction, the builders did not protect the newly poured concrete from freezing. The result was a lower grade concrete. However, concrete that has been frozen just once at an early age can be restored to nearly normal strength by providing favorable curing conditions. But such concrete is not as resistant to weathering, nor is it as watertight as concrete that has not been frozen. That’s apparently what we got. And a simple fact of construction is: cracks only get worse. Besides leading to larger cracks, water penetration leads to among other things compromised home decorations, flooring and eventually toxic mold.
And that’s really it. In time everything deteriorates. In buildings, it’s all about permeability and what did you do to slow the deterioration process. As deterioration process in concrete begins with penetration by various aggressive agents, low permeability is the key to its durability. The key to deterrence is maintenance.
As to the problem being local-ized to A units 22 through 27, that’s not necessarily true. According to our civil engineering sources, whole floors (columns, plats, etc.) are poured consecutively. Fact is, we just don’t know the extent of the problem by focusing exclusively on one area.
Two years on, the Board reluctantly takes a proactive stand…
Despite the fact that by statute (765 ILCS 605/18.4) maintenance, upkeep and repair of the common elements are THE fundamental duties of the board, the board’s posture until now has been to obfuscate and ignore.
At the November 16, 2014 Board Meeting, upon motion the Board approved the engineering firm KGH to provide bid specs for repairs. About $2,000 was budgeted to do a “sounding” of the existing cement to reveal pockets and problem areas. About $2,000-$4,500 was budgeted for the firm to produce the bid specs and recommend who to use to make the repairs.
But then, as is typical at 111, nothing happened. At the March 23, 2015 board meeting, Sudler EVP Bob Graf gave Milazzo what apparently he wanted. Graf said: “[KGH architect] Bonick’s report shows areas. However, he does not believe that it requires immediate attention. He suggested that we implement a concrete repair program to be included in our upcoming revision to the Construction Rules.” All in attendance laughed excepts Asia. She responded adamantly, “It’s not going to fix itself!
Asia pressed on. She had her perpetually wet floor independently tested and they confirmed that the problem was the underlying concrete.
At the May 19, 2016 Board Meeting, the Board approved concrete repairs for Unit 22A. But that’s all. After claiming to have consulted with legal, Milazzo said that the Association is responsible for infrastructure and no decorations or ancillary damage caused by the repair.
On May 20, 2016, our property manager Rudnik clarified the Board’s reluctant posture to date:
“After additional conversations with our architect and the contractor that had completed similar repairs in the building when it was converted to condominiums, the Board understood (emphasis added) that we should establish a procedure for how these repairs would be handled and due to repairs being evasive on a resident (dust and noise) consider recommending these repairs be addressed when a unit is vacant or when renovations are in progress so someone isn’t inconvenienced or displaced.”
With the Board now intractable about taking responsibility for any ancillary damaged caused by the needed repairs, Asia hired an attorney (Dean Chalmers, also an owner here).
On June 10, 2016, responding to a request for repair by the owners of 24A, property manager Rudnik said:
“KGH reviewed the condition of the concrete ceiling at Unit 24A on June 7, 2016 at Management’s request. As you are aware, KGH originally inspected the Unit on December 11, 2014. At that time we identified several cracks in the ceiling and a small number of apparent concrete delaminations, the majority of which appeared to be shallow based on our sounding of the concrete. Upon sounding the concrete this morning, we did not observe any notable change in the condition of the concrete compared to our original inspection in 2014. We did not identify any conditions that appeared to be imminently hazardous. As recommended in our 2014 report, in addition to the eventual repair of the concrete, the concrete should be periodically reviewed by the building staff and any loose concrete removed by a qualified contractor as required.”
At the July 18, 2016 Board Meeting, the Board approved a budget for concrete repair for Unit 24A and again changed their posture. Let alone taking responsibility for repair of the common element, in a letter to the owners of 24A the Board said: “Section 20 of the Declaration provides… if redecorating is required due to damage caused by the maintenance, repair or replacement of the Common Elements by the Association, then the Association shall furnish such decorating as part of the common expense.”
As to Asia, considering the likely cost of replacing/redecoration as a consequence of the repair, hers is not an inexpensive fix. The Board (i.e. Milazzo) is STILL continuing to give her push back. As of the writing of this article, no agreement has been reached.
So how much is all this gonna cost the Association?
TBD. More exactly, a lot and then some. At the last Board Meeting, Board approved Golf Construction to do the repairs for 24A for $10,300 “plus whatever they find.” Board Vice President Serap Brush admonished the Board at the meeting saying, “Keep in mind that this is precedent setting,” i.e. a blank check as precedent is not good.
The Take Away
Blank check notwithstanding, as this is an issue that needs to be disclosed in a sale, as this surely impacts your/our property value, you can and should have your Unit tested and repaired, ASAP. Call management and set it up (312-649-9600). As to what the whole thing is gonna cost the Association, stay tuned. Just the testing for all 444 units could be significant. But it is what it is. It’s not something we can ignore.
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STORY UPDATE 8/29: See Gajderowicz v. 111 East Chestnut Condominiums.