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Although most of our owners were pleased that the cooling tower project was finally underway, some had expressed confusion about the project’s scheduling and others thought we were moving too fast. Since our May 2016 Cooling Tower Report, a series of planned and unplanned events dictated how – and why – the project was finally launched. This report will help fill in some blanks.
There is no such thing as a “good time” to lose air conditioning in Florida. During the past year, scores of owners were questioned about scheduling the project. An overwhelming majority made one of two recommendations. We were admonished to avoid the “dog days” of late June, July and August as well as the extended Holiday Season from November through March.
While it is clearly preferable to schedule the project when the fewest people are in residence (over the summer months), that is also when the weather is most brutal. Temperatures are cooler in January and February, which explains why the occupancy rate skyrockets during those months, as the building fills with visiting friends and family. The annual influx of our “snowbirds” begins in late October and early November, extends through the Holiday Season and wanes in late March and April (as the temperatures in “second” homes grow increasingly comfortable).
That leaves two “windows of opportunity”: from mid-September to mid-October – or from May to mid-June. Ironically, although the project commenced during one of these seasonal “sweet spots”, it had little to do with data harvested from “pool talk” or elevator debates, but a more compelling factor – your wallet.
Regulatory Rat Traps
While crawling through City of Fort Lauderdale design review, a wide variety of permitting issues were addressed. Akin to swimming in molasses, more than a year was spent negotiating two specific requirements that would have exploded project costs. Fortunately, we began the replacement process while the tower is still fully functional and serviceable, affording us sufficient time to contest costly regulatory mandates with no ostensible benefit.
Since this strategic adaptation was anticipated as a possible regulatory remedy, it was included in the Association’s 2015 Assessment Report, and fully funded as a contingent expense. Our engineer and contractor Smart Air Systems agreed that relocating the cooling tower would require a new support stand anchored to the roof, additional piping and new electrical lines. After calling on subcontractor J.S Steel Fabricators to price out building the stand, and consulting with their Electrical and Plumbing subcontractors, Smart Air estimated the additional cost at $40,000 – a no-brainer – as it would obviate the need for a $100,000 “eyesore wall”. Unfortunately, the contractor didn’t realize that the crane included in their bid was already stretched to its maximum capacity. They would need a larger, more expensive crane to reach the middle of our roof.
Crane Crap Shoot
Staging the crane in the street is marred by two adverse impacts. First, an even larger crane would be required to lift the new tower across the broad span from Galt Ocean Drive to the middle of the roof, which would hike the cost by an additional $40,000 - $45,000 (as estimated by several crane operators).
Our neighbor to the south - Galt Ocean Club - has no sub-grade garage. Their unit owners park across the street in a rented underground garage located beneath Winn-Dixie. If we could prevail upon the Galt Ocean Club Board of Directors to approve use of their parking deck as a staging area, its close proximity to our building would allow us to use the smaller crane, avoid the permitting delays, reverse the significant incremental cost, and shred the Smart Air change order.
A Good Neighbor
We moved expeditiously to take advantage of this opportunity. Pending Galt Ocean Club approval, general contractor Smart Air (and electrical, mechanical and plumbing subcontractors) was prepared to mobilize, as was Campany Roofing, a roof maintenance outfit charged with performing on-site repairs to membrane penetrations. Smart Air still had to schedule the crane, which could not be done until a commitment was received from Galt Ocean Club. Once the contractor and the crane operator locked up a date, Manager Kande Lewandowski pumped out scheduling notices for residents on September 12 – detailing dates and duration of the impending project.
In contrast with the two-week timetable announced prior to commencing construction, the project was completed ten days after the September 21 launch date, a new record on the Galt Mile for a cooling tower replacement. More importantly, since the six days planned for the actual switchover was halved; those of us in residence only had to “sweat it out” with fans and spot coolers for less than three days. Working closely with our engineer to quickly resolve construction issues, our contractors had exceeded our expectations. We also had a secret weapon.
The Secreat Weapon
We owe a debt of gratitude to our neighbors in Galt Ocean Club, which we will repay in kind when they need our help. Their sacrifice unraveled a Gordian Knot of regulatory delays and saved us a bundle. Throughout the project, our board and manager aspired to three goals – replacing the aging tower, minimizing the inconvenience – and staying on budget. These objectives were met. While the common areas undergo a long-awaited modernization, preparations will commence for a concrete restoration to rehabilitate our balconies, building columns and expansion joints. For a preliminary update – stay tuned.
Post Script: Mother Nature’s Acid Test
A few days after our A/C was restored, Hurricane Matthew battered the South Florida coast. While those who remained in residence were understandably fearful of the fierce devastation threatened by the offshore cyclone, the newly expanded beach absorbed the high-energy storm surge, our impact glass windows and doors repelled the windstorm onslaught and the new rooftop cooling towers – unscathed by 130-mph winds – provided uninterrupted control of our environment throughout the ordeal. This was no “happy accident”. Among the reasons why City officials approved eliminating the requirement for a wall around the cooling tower were plans submitted by our engineer demonstrating a substructure fortified to withstand hurricane-force winds.
Before and during the storm, employees, association officials and residents took care of one another – like a family. Thanks to staffers directed by Manager Kande Lewandowski - who efficiently implemented the Board’s Hurricane preparation protocols – a cursory post-storm inspection of the entire association property (including the roof) revealed negligible damage. More on this later...
Power Off, Power On
Originally, the plan entailed cutting electric power to the entire building. On November 23, Engineer Evans sent us a reconfigured electrical protocol that dispensed with the full power outage by specifically targeting those panels involved with the new connections, which consequently also service the condenser water pump, the domestic water pump and the elevators. As such, our refrigerators and freezers will not be turned into "ice boxes" during the changeover, eliminating the risk to unit owners for $thousands in frozen or chilled foodstuffs. Barring some unanticipated catastrophic obstacle, the crew will continue working until the building is once again fully operational. The electrical upgrades will seamlessly accommodate the new generator upon its arrival.
Fischer's team of electricians will begin disconnecting the electrical panels in the Meter Room at 4 a.m. The elevators will become inoperable at 5 a.m. That means if you don't come down to the lobby by 5 a.m. sharp, you will have to walk down the stairs to exit the building. To avoid a hectic rush to beat the pre-dawn deadline, why not check in to a local hotel the night before, and wake up to a leisurely breakfast in bed.
Up the block are the Ocean Manor and Ocean Sky Hotels on Galt Ocean Drive. If you want a bit more luxury and lack a pathological compulsion to hoard nickels, try the Marriott Residence Inn Fort Lauderdale Intracoastal (formerly Il Lugano) just across A1A on the Intracoastal. Truth be told, when was the last time you treated yourself like the guests who enjoy your hospitality? Go on - take a day for yourself!
The Municipal Gauntlet
The majority of applications warrant review by no more than three inspectors. With few exceptions, permits issued to association unit owners for home improvements are vetted at desks dedicated to plumbing, electrical and/or structural review - and usually approved within several business days. However, when an association solicits a permit for a more complex project, the application makes additional stops - whether for landscaping, zoning, floodplain management, etc. - depending on anticipated project impacts. As for our planned Regency Tower emergency power system, the following is a summary of its travels through the City’s design review minefield.
Down the Rabbit Hole
On April 14, a permit application submitted by Fischer Electric was logged in by Fort Lauderdale Service Clerk Cecile Thomas, and tagged for initial review by inspectors in Building/Structural, Electrical, Floodplain Management, Landscaping, Mechanical (A/C), Plumbing and Zoning – virtually every desk in plan review. On April 16, it was sent to the Structural and Electrical desks; it passed structural in 2 hours as Chief Electrical Inspector Scott Dry approved the electrical component in only 50 minutes. On April 20, it was sent to plumbing, where Plumbing Inspector Greg Diaz added “notes” inquiring about piping, gas consumption rates and requesting additional drawings. While the notes were being addressed, the project was reviewed on April 22 by Structural Plans Examiner Victor Blanco in Zoning, who added notes questioning the project’s impact on outdoor parking – a strange request for a project located in the garage. On April 23, Landscape Inspector Karl Lauridsen signed off on the plan, surmising an absence of landscaping in the maintenance room.
Although Fischer responded to Diaz’ plumbing inquiries and Blanco’s parking concerns within a few days, the permit application collected dust until June 3, when the Floodplain Manager asked if the equipment was planned for installation at or above the base Flood Elevation. On the same day, Mechanical Inspector Paolo Serafini added notes demanding new drawings that show relocated exhaust outlets and ducts discharging to the outdoors. He specified that the revised drawings should demonstrate termination points 10 feet from the property lines; 3 feet from exterior walls and roofs; and 10 feet from operable openings into the building. Despite their unconditional irrelevance to the project located in the maintenance room, the drawings were executed and returned a few days later. After another three weeks, on July 1, Serafini asked for another drawing showing how the pipes are supported and inquired if exterior project elements adequately resist wind loads.
Three weeks after Fischer responded, on July 24, Chief Plumbing Inspector Joe DeMaio appropriated the plumbing review from Diaz, and added three more notes. He requested a drawing that shows the shut-off valve after the gas meter and different piping to the new generator. In his last note, he lowered the boom. After four months in City plan review, he informed Fischer that the project must also be approved by Broward County.
Broward Takes a Bite
While Florida Law vests the City of Fort Lauderdale with enforcement of The Florida Building Code for most construction, it cedes jurisdiction to Broward County for certain projects, including Swimming Pools and Elevators. Recently, certain projects were reclassified for discretionary dual review by the County and the City – including generators. Ironically, details about this additional regulatory rain dance were never announced to the building trades and engineering communities. At the end of the day, Evans observations about the City’s obtuse regulatory practices for life-safety projects were borne out.
Once approved by the County, the project was bounced back to the City, where it was returned to mechanical and plumbing on August 18, the only two desks that hadn’t yet approved the plans. On August 20, the plan was reviewed and approved by a third Plumbing Inspector – Joe Kajak. On August 22, the plan made its way back to Mechanical Plans Examiner Paolo Serafini. Despite intensive investigation and a truckload of notes, Serafini finally indicated that no mechanical review was requiredy. After emailing an August 24 notice of the permit’s approval and collecting all outstanding fees, Building Services Clerk Robin McIntosh sent it to the Reception Desk for pickup on August 25, 2015. According to Fischer, while this regulatory roller coaster has been exasperating, it was far from the worst he had experienced – citing one project that was under scrutiny for more than a year. Also, this is not our first marathon dance with design review – as it took six months to land permission for replacing our roof.
The permit hunt prompted the contractor to apply for two change orders. On August 28, we picked up a $450 expense to comply with DeMaio’s request for a detailed load drawing of the entire gas line - with all attached appliances. On September 14, Change Order #2 was submitted for $1996 in permit fees for the project, the gas line, and filing fees for Permit Services, Notice of Commencement, etc. Verified by the Engineer, the cumulative invoice of $2446 was addressed with a draft from the regulatory contingency provided for this purpose.
Securing the permit also triggered a vendor payment of $44,000 - contractually earmarked for the purchase of equipment, which was ordered just after Labor Day. On September 11, receipt of manufacturer and distributor shipping windows affirmed major equipment deliveries through November. Demolition commenced in the garage on September 21, where channels that will house interred concrete encased conduit were carved in the maintenance room, the meter room and the connecting hallway. Inspected by our Engineer on September 24, the excavation must also be examined and approved by a City Inspector, a protocol anticipated for every step of the project.
The silver lining – having been alerted to the previously undisclosed requirement for County review, regulatory approval for our cooling tower will be simultaneously solicited from the City and County. Like the emergency power system, a cooling tower installation is among the handful of association projects scrutinized by every desk in Design Review. Without convincing evidence of an impending disaster, there is no “fast track” option. Instead, after exercising reasonable due diligence, the association will once again take a deep breath, hold its nose, and patiently navigate this mind-numbing “House of Mirrors”.
The backup generator enables critical fire safety systems during a power outage, when we are most vulnerable to a flash fire. In powering emergency hallway lighting and an elevator, elderly residents who are unable to navigate the stairs will not be stranded on the upper floors. Providing emergency power to the garage door preserves the means for unit owners with garaged vehicles to optionally depart Regency Tower if the power fails. The importance of our cooling tower is self-evident, since every air conditioner in the building is operationally dependent on its unflagging functionality. As such, the board approved a new generator and cooling tower; authorizing John Evans of Swaysland Professional Engineering Consultants, Inc. (SPEC) to commence the replacement process on June 25, 2014. Although a structural engineer, Evans consulted with mechanical and electrical engineers who respectively specialize in power management and HVAC.
The Emergency Generator Assessment
As 1970s developer-installed generators along the Galt Mile became candidates for replacement, City Code Officials restricted the new generators to outdoor placements. Relocating our generator to an outdoor site would skyrocket costs – and the financial burden on unit owners. Expenditures for extensive camouflage landscaping to cloak this mechanical eyesore (as required by City code) and a costly noise-dampening envelope (another code requirement) would be topped off with a long, interred channel of expensive copper conduit connecting the remote exterior location to the meter room in the garage.
Investigating the rationale for this noisy, ugly, budget-busting regulatory dogma, Evans learned that Fort Lauderdale Code officials had two reservations about garage generator installs along the Galt Mile. In addition to trepidations about storm surge flooding the below grade garage of a beachfront association, building officials were also concerned about prospective heat buildup in poorly ventilated interior rooms.
Fortunately, the Regency Tower generator site differs from those of our neighbors, as the original garage-level generator enclosure was subsequently opened to the large adjacent Maintenance Room. On meeting with code officials, Evans demonstrated that the current indoor location was not only expansive and well-ventilated, but also air conditioned (in 2004, our maintenance guys rehabilitated a discarded air conditioner for use in the Maintenance room).
Within 5 weeks, Estenoz modeled a new emergency power system around an engine manufactured by Generac Power Systems and based on the regulatory concessions negotiated by Evans. By increasing the size of the new generator from 115 kW to 150 kW, Estenoz eliminated the need for an expensive soft starter on the fire pump, explaining “I prefer to keep the system simpler and put the money into a little larger generator than complicating the fire pump controller with reduce voltage or a soft starter.” On August 12, Estenoz submitted his completed project drawings and technical specifications of the Generac generator to Evans, who compiled the documentation into bid packages on August 14.
On August 19, the bid packages were sent to four reputable vendors, including American Generator Services (the company that maintains our generator), Fischer Electric (installed our deck lamps and Playa del Sol’s emergency generator), Kerney & Associates (a Dania Beach contractor recommended by Evans) and Edd Helms (formerly maintained our HVAC systems - until replaced by a less costly “competitor”). The vendors submitted bids by the September 12 deadline; except for Edd Helms (whose representative later admitted that “someone dropped the ball”).
The bid submitted by Kerney & Associates was $194,050 and Fischer Electric submitted a proposal for $149,400. On behalf of American Generator Services (AGS), a contractor they use for new installations called Toro Engineering submitted a bid for $236,292. Inexplicably, AGS ignored the bid parameters that called for installing the Generac generator and priced a much more expensive model manufactured by Kohler. Since a contract’s profitability is often a percentage of the overall project cost, goosing costs with more expensive products is a tactic commonly used to flesh out a contractor’s bottom line.
Angered by the AGS self-serving attempt to explode project costs, at a September 25 meeting to discuss the bids, John Evans declared that Generac makes an excellent generator, an opinion shared by Estenoz. Likening Kohler to the “Rolls Royce of the generator world,” he added that it was “clearly unnecessary for our purposes.” In a bid report he submitted on September 28, Evans explained “At a cost difference of $70,000 it does NOT seem warranted for a piece of equipment that will likely run no more than 55 hours a year!” Board members agreed. Our objective is to install an efficient and reliable generator, without unnecessarily increasing the assessment burden.
During the bid review, Evans enumerated additional expenses that the association would have to directly address, including two regulatory costs that hinge on last minute opinions rendered by the Fire Department and Building Services. Since no generator will be available during the changeover, the Building Department may require a “standby” generator to power emergency systems in the event of a power outage - an expense reckoned at $2,000 a week for about two weeks - totaling $4000. Secondly, when the fire pump conductor is changed, the fire pump will be down for a few days. During this hiatus, the Fire Department may demand that we implement a “fire watch”. For this task, the Department could either require that we hire a firefighter or assign the responsibility to our security staff. If directed to hire a firefighter, a 5-day watch could cost an additional $4800.
An elective expense relates to warranty protection. Although the Generac generator is warranted for two years, the company offers an optional 5-year warranty for an additional $1750. Lastly, engineering costs for design and bid management were $8,500. Incorporating the $8,500 for engineering, the $1750 cost of an extended 5-year warranty, the possible $4000 rental expense for an interim generator and $4800 for a firefighter to serve as a “fire watch” will add $19,050 to an assessment.
Of the two bids received for the specified Generac engine, Fischer’s bid of $149,400 was roughly 23% less expensive than the Kerney proposal for $194,050. Given Evans’ conclusion that the proposed services were essentially the same, the board accepted the bid from Fischer Electric. Cushioning the bid price of $149,400 with a standard 20% contingency totaling $29,880 increases the project cost to $179,280. Adding the $19,050 for engineering, warranty and prospectively mandated regulatory costs brings the total project assessment to $198,330.
The Cooling Tower Assessment
Seeking a less costly alternative, we asked Evans to ascertain the cost of relocating the cooling tower to the center of the roof, which would eliminate line-of-sight visibility from the street. After consulting with the Mechanical Engineer, Evans estimated the cost at $35,000 to $40,000, clipping $60 grand from the contingency.
Evans described a second potential regulatory expense. When the old cooling tower is emptied, City code requires its discharge into a sanitary drain. Unfortunately, we only have a rooftop storm drain. Admonishing that a Hallandale code officer refused to allow an association to evacuate their cooling tower into a storm drain, Evans devised a solution if faced with the same obstacle. Since the rooftop storm drain descends through the entire building, the discharge can be intercepted in the garage, where it can be piped to a nearby sanitary drain. He postulated the cost of this work-around at $12,000. Evans also estimated impending project management costs at $5000. The $40,000 to relocate the cooling tower, $12,000 to reroute the effluent to a sanitary drain and $5000 for construction oversight could inflate the project cost by $57,000.
Contractors invited to bid on the project included Kerney & Associates, Thermal Concepts (the vendor that installed our current cooling tower) and Smart Air Systems (a Margate contractor also recommended by Evans). A fourth vendor declined to bid. Bid packages sent in mid-November were returned by the December 15, 2014 deadline. Kerney & Associates offered to complete the project for $294,700. The Thermal Concepts bid was $285,625 and Smart Air Systems submitted a proposal for $218,836. Upon Evans’ confirmation that services provided in the three proposals were substantially similar, the board selected the $218,836 Smart Air bid – in a heartbeat.
To provide for unanticipated construction problems, the base bid of $218,836 was padded with a standard 20% contingency cushion of $43,767, raising the project cost to $262,603. The $57,000 for prospective regulatory expenses will bring the total cooling tower assessment to $319,603.
The Total Assessment: Nosing Around the Block
Adding the $198,330 cost for the new generator to a $319,603 expense for the cooling tower yields a total assessment of $517,933 for both projects. How do these anticipated costs stack up to those of similar projects in neighboring associations? Ironically, with the exception of L’Hermitage I & II and L’Ambiance (built in 1998, 1999 and 2003) other Galt Mile associations have already replaced their original generators (most of them were swapped out prior to the Millennium).
Vacation Time – Getting Out of Dodge!
The impact of each project on those in residence was discussed during a project update at the Budget Meeting. While the generator project will only affect a few deeded parking spaces adjacent to the maintenance room, the cooling tower replacement will inconvenience everyone in residence during the project. For the week or so it takes to install the new cooling tower, central air conditioning will be unavailable. If you can be elsewhere during this project, by all means - hit the road. To help soften the discomfort for those of us fettered to in-residence responsibilities, we are currently negotiating a per diem rate for unit owners to directly rent spot coolers (portable A/C units) for their favorite rooms. This should stir memories in those who endured the riser project. Since the rental costs will be paid by each unit owner directly to the vendor, it will have no financial impact on the assessment. Thank you for your attention.
Assessment Summary Emergency Generator Assessment
Emergency Generator Assessment
Cooling Tower Assessment
Total Combined Assessment
Permit costs/municipal costs or fees are not included
Estimated and/or subject to municipal requirements
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Three projects that are critical to our quality of life were reviewed during the spring season – the structural integrity of our balconies, the cooling tower that enables every air conditioner in the building and the back-up generator that powers critical systems during an outage. Two were approved by the Board. Since they are funded by special assessment, they will impact our family budgets. The following update will add some perspective to these planned improvements
Nevertheless, since a unilateral balcony restoration would still trigger a sizable assessment, commencing such a project before it was clearly necessary would violate the board’s fiduciary responsibility. Conversely, waiting until chunks of dislodged concrete begin bouncing off the parking deck is not an option. Since inexpensive cracks can quickly evolve into costly structural defects, casual delays can significantly inflate the cost of a member-funded special assessment. To determine the optimum time for a building-wide balcony restoration, the Board would first have to ascertain their average general condition.
Asked to devise a cost-effective methodology for determining their structural integrity, structural engineer John Evans of Swaysland Professional Engineering Corporation (SPEC) suggested testing a random cross-section of the association’s balconies. To err on the side of caution, he narrowed the test sample to east-facing balconies closest to the ocean, given their elevated exposure to halides, PCBs and other corrosive ocean-based pollutants. Shortly after testing the even floors in the eleven stack and the odd floors in the one stack, he submitted his findings to the Board on March 21, 2014.
For example, since a concrete restoration always leaves exterior walls heavily scarred, competing project vendors must include mitigation expenses in their sealed bids. Alternatively, a subsequent paint project will correct this damage, enabling concrete vendors to drop this cost from their bid price. Also, waterproofing the newly rehabilitated balcony floors can be less expensively incorporated into a paint project.
If discovered early, spalling is a useful indicator. For balconies that demonstrate minor spalling, an inexpensive interim repair would slow or stop the deterioration until the restoration project provides a more permanent resolution (on one balcony, the unit owner continuously overwatered a specific planting area for years, creating a permanent pond underneath, which spalled the concrete floor).
The rooftop cooling tower anchors a heat removal system. Excess heat is absorbed by water in the risers that pass through each AC/Water Heater closet en route to the rooftop cooling tower, where it is cooled and returned to collect more heat. Since they would burn out if forced to operate without the cooling tower, our air conditioners are always turned off before the cooling tower is closed down for repairs or maintenance, and turned on again afterwards. In short, every individual AC unit connected to our central air system is operationally dependent on the cooling tower. If the cooling tower goes - so does your air conditioning!
In response to the reserves study, SPEC Engineer John Evans recruited a mechanical engineer who specializes in HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) to evaluate the cooling tower’s condition. On December 21, 2011, they submitted a report summarizing their findings. Following a technical description of the unit’s structure, it states “Our inspection revealed very minor rusting on the framing. Some of the pipe hangers and connection bolts are severely rusted and should be replaced when the tower is replaced. Touch up painting should be applied to all rusted framing members after removing the rust.” Despite its age, the engineers concluded that there was no reason to anticipate a functionality deficit. However, they also recommended that we regularly revisit this issue. Following the most recent inspection, the engineer dropped the other shoe, asserting “It’s time to begin the replacement process.”
Called in to inspect the generator, SPEC engineer John Evens confirmed the company’s assessment and recommended that we begin the replacement process immediately, as permitting issues can substantially delay an installation. Since they installed a replacement generator for Playa del Sol in 2008, Evans also recommended that we contact Fischer Electric to inspect the generator, give us a rough estimate for comprehensive project costs and ascertain if a replacement head gasket can be fashioned in case the one on our generator prematurely gives up the ghost. On May 13, 2014, Chuck Fischer also recommended an immediate replacement, confirming that largely depleted replacement part inventories will cripple efforts to maintain the generator. Asked if a replacement head gasket could be fashioned, when Fischer called back the next day, he said that a mechanic he uses told him that he might be able to fashion a temporary head gasket if necessary.
A few days later, Evans reported finding a company in South Carolina that would manufacture a replacement head gasket. However, since they required an unavailable “template” for duplication, he characterized this as a dead end. Observing that a system failure is most likely to occur during an actual emergency, when the generator must carry a full load for an extended period; and that building a replacement head gasket could take days - or weeks during a prolonged power outage - he strongly advised against relying on this option.
Commenting on Fischer’s budget recommendation, Evans conjectured that since our generator drives a smaller fire pump than the one used in Playa del Sol, we need only budget roughly $170,000 instead of $213,000, plus $10,000 in engineering costs. To emphasize the importance of acting expeditiously, on June 13, Jim Oberlander from maintenance vendor American Generator Services warned that if the generator fails, Regency Tower will have to “roll in a portable generator, and that will get very costly.” He added that replacing the generator could take six months.
In addition to critical fire safety systems, the backup generator powers hallway lighting and an elevator. A few years ago, we added the garage door, given the importance of enabling unit owners who so choose to depart Regency Tower if the power fails. If the backup generator fails during such an emergency, vehicles parked in the garage will become useless and elderly residents unable to navigate the stairs could be stranded on the upper floors - posing a threat to their safety - and possibly their lives. Since this is unacceptable, the Board agreed to approve its replacement ASAP.
With minor variations, after each project is configured and packaged by the appropriate Mechanical, Structural and/or Electrical Engineer, reputable contractors will be invited to submit sealed bids for the job. Based on the Engineer’s input, an “apples to apples” comparison of the submitted bids and a review of each competing vendor’s “track record,” the Board will select the winning bidder.
Additional info will be made available as the planned replacement projects for the generator and cooling tower go forward. As future balcony tests are performed and evaluated, those results will also be posted. Projects for which reserves haven't been established – or are insufficiently (partially) funded – are subject to special assessment. Since these unavoidable expenses affect our family budgets, the Board will keep you informed about their impending implementation. Thank you for your attention to these issues, given their significant impact on our continued safety and quality of life!
On Swaysland’s recommendation, we contacted Honeywell to confirm the terms of our warranty. We also contacted original contractor Campany Roofing to perform an independent assessment, and apply line item pricing to prospective repairs. While successfully working together on our roof, Campany earned substantial credibility with Honeywell. Concerned about whether neglect by the roof maintenance vendor might have compromised our warranty, we asked Campany to solicit a clear set of compliance standards from Honeywell. After running interference on our behalf, Campany issued a proposal that addressed all of the threats listed in Swaysland’s report and satisfied Honeywell’s warranty prerequisites.
Based on vendor pricing received to date, for an additional $15,000 to $18,000, we can insure that our eleven-year old roof remains in optimum condition. In addition to effecting field repairs on all four roofs, we can replace damaged sections of copper flashing, recaulk sections that remain intact and permanently fix the stairwell roof. Upon completing vendor negotiations that are currently underway, the final cost of repairs approved by Honeywell – as well as a repair timetable – will be announced.
Going forward, although annual blistering must still be monitored and controlled, the reduced number of open laps in the base flashing will significantly lower maintenance costs over the next ten years. Also, we will no longer have to worry about the stairwell roof collapsing or continued eligibility for warranty protection. I agree with our engineer. Given the substantial structural and financial consequences of neglecting these problems, this intervention is a no-brainer. Thank you for your kind attention.
April 7, 2013 - On Thursday, March 21, 2013, Comcast kicked off a Regency Tower equipment upgrade event at 3 PM in the Rendezvous Room. Prior to the expiration of Regency Tower’s bulk service contract with Comcast, association officials negotiated a new agreement with the Cable giant. The new pact provides Regency Tower members with additional services at no additional cost.
Responding to changes in the 2005 cable law, premium content providers (like HBO) refused to allow Comcast to transmit their signal to televisions connected to cable boxes that don’t feature parental controls - like the Digital Adaptors (DTAs) affixed to many televisions in Regency Tower.
About half of Comcast’s Regency Tower customers had previously purchased additional television services (High Definition television, DVR recording capability, an expanded digital channel lineup, etc.) that automatically provided them with a digital set-top box. Others rent an additional digital set-top box to access these services on their other televisions or simply take advantage of its expanded digital capabilities.
Since these Regency Tower unit owners were already capable of accessing the new features made available in the contract, their participation in the event was not required. Instead, owners who rent a digital set-top box or received one when they purchased the Digital Starter package would have their accounts adjusted, thereby removing the accompanying charges from future monthly Comcast statements. Of course, they would still be responsible for any additional services or equipment not included in the new Regency Tower contract.
Ordinarily, Comcast charges $30 for visiting a unit to install upgraded equipment – as well as a $15 activation fee. They agreed to waive those costs for any installations performed during the March 21, 2013 event organized for that purpose.
Two days before the event, Comcast sent us a “client list” indicating who among their Regency Tower customers needed equipment upgrades. They also sent scores of cardboard “door-hangers” to help inform those owners how they would benefit from attending the event. Earlier, Comcast sent mailings to every Regency Tower customer to explain the new services and the prospective necessity to upgrade their equipment. Additionally, Notices announcing the March 21 event and detailing its objectives were distributed by the association and placed on the mail room bulletin board, the garage elevator lobby bulletin board, the free-standing notice board near the lobby elevators and posted on the association website.
Arriving two hours before the event, Comcast administrative personnel and cable technicians built a wireless local network connecting the Rendezvous Room to the Comcast customer database as board members and employees reconfigured the room to accommodate participating residents. Beginning at 3 PM, entering owners would register at one of three open chairs across from a Comcast customer service specialist. Within 30 seconds, owners were either informed that they already had the required equipment (and that their accounts would be adjusted) or asked to go to their units and await a technician who would install a digital set-top box on the television of their choice.
Despite being told to contact Comcast when faced with a television problem, in the subsequent weeks, almost a dozen perplexed unit owners called the office and/or board members with inquiries and/or complaints about the new equipment. A half dozen residents who couldn’t find HBO were informed that all 8 HBO channels were now available on channels 301 through 311 (along with a Spanish language HBO channel on channel 312). Problems also disappeared when confused owners were shown how to use their unfamiliar new remote controls. Of the four remaining issues that couldn’t be addressed with friendly advice, one enterprising owner resolved his problem by picking up a longer cable from Comcast, while three others called Comcast and scheduled a service appointment.
Believing that this corporate glutton has experienced some ethical catharsis would be patently naïve. However, for the first time in decades, Comcast is also cooperating with the neighborhood association, having finally acknowledged that while many problems are specific to the cable infrastructure within a unit or an individual building, others that afflict the entire neighborhood will be more effectively addressed by community collaboration.
To that end, on April 1, 2013, Comcast officials met with the Galt Mile Presidents Council. Following a presentation and a Q & A, they agreed to participate in a neighborhood forum to discuss servicing issues, community-wide bulk pricing, discounted additional services and improved communication. Since they are also the only game in town for bulk service television customers on Galt Ocean Drive, we have nothing to lose by collectively tackling these issues. As always, whether or not this new understanding bears fruit will come out in the wash.
Please Note: Many residents have expressed confusion about Xfinity, asking why they are receiving information about the services offered by this “mysterious” company. Xfinity is a “high-tech” brand name conceived by Comcast's Marketing Division to help sell their products and services, similar to AT&T branding their bundled services as “Uverse”. Xfinity and Uverse are not new companies, but competitive advertizing gizmos dreamed up by Comcast and AT&T. In short - Xfinity is Comcast!
Links to Helpful Info
November 2, 2012 - Prior to opening renewal negotiations with Comcast (and one year after the U.S. Department of Justice and the FCC approved Comcast acquiring 51% of NBCUniversal from General Electric), the Regency Tower Cable Committee (Eric Berkowitz, Robert Nagle and Howard Hirschman) encountered a familiar obstacle. They learned that alternative bulk television service providers DirecTV and Dish Network were still using a contractual format that requires executing an additional (second) agreement with one of several broadcaster-authorized local vendors to perform maintenance services. These small “Information Technology” companies surreptitiously cycle in and out of business, often resurfacing as some new enterprise that carries no liability for agreements executed under their previous incarnation. Given the decidedly unstable nature of this business model, the Committee rejected this option.
November 2, 2012 - Prior to opening renewal negotiations with Comcast (and one year after the U.S. Department of Justice and the FCC approved Comcast acquiring 51% of NBCUniversal from General Electric), the Regency Tower Cable Committee (Eric Berkowitz, Robert Nagle and Howard Hirschman) encountered a familiar obstacle. They learned that alternative bulk television service providers DirecTV and Dish Network were still using a contractual format that requires executing an additional (second) agreement with one of several broadcaster-authorized local vendors to perform maintenance services. These small “Information Technology” companies surreptitiously cycle in and out of business, often resurfacing as some new enterprise that carries no liability for agreements executed under their previous incarnation. Given the decidedly unstable nature of this business model, the Committee rejected this option.
During preliminary discussions with Comcast in April, 2012, Account Executive Miriam Decker described a critical change in Comcast’s bulk television services. In the two years after the “Digital Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005” forced broadcasters to transition from analog to digital transmissions on June 12, 2009, cable providers like Comcast distributed and installed no-frills Digital Transport Adapters (DTAs), small cable boxes that enable customers to receive the digital signals carrying basic cable content. Since every analog channel reclaimed by federal law unshackled enough bandwidth for 3 new High Definition digital channels, or 15 new standard digital channels, the telecommunications law squeezed out enough virgin wavelength for federal bureaucrats to hold a multi-$billion bandwidth auction.
As compensation, instead of a basic cable plan accessed by up to 3 free DTAs, Comcast agreed to provide Regency Tower members with up to 2 DTAs and a “Digital Starter” plan accessed by a digital set-top box. To offset the loss of two HBO channels on a DTA-affixed set, a television connected by a digital set-top box will receive all 8 HBO channels; hundreds of free movies, a substantially expanded “Digital Starter” channel lineup and the full complement of interactive On Demand services. Regency Tower owners who currently pay for Digital Starter or rent a digital set-top box to access premium services will no longer have to pay the monthly rental charge for one of these devices. However, the monthly costs for unit owners who subscribe to additional premium services or rent additional boxes will be unaffected by this agreement. Conversely, owners who have heretofore chosen to forgo paying for the additional features delivered by a digital set-top box will receive them at no additional cost.
Since our last negotiation with Comcast (also branded as Xfinity to bury a burdensome nationwide reputation for historically pathetic customer service), we learned that the broadcaster began offering associations financial incentives for initiating or renewing a bulk services contract. While investigating these “signing bonuses,” we learned that several cable consulting companies carved out a niche market for themselves by representing associations in their negotiations with cable and satellite providers for these incentives. A majority of the agreements they negotiated for client associations featured checks written by the broadcaster to the associations for signing new or renewed agreements. For their services, the consultants would be paid an amount based on the financial benefits exacted from the provider.
Comcast calculated the $9338 payment included in their second proposal by applying a per unit fee of $46 to Regency Tower’s 203 units. Both options raised at the final meeting involved a change to that access fee. Comcast insisted that the association help subsidize the more expensive enhanced package by hiking the cost to every unit owner and lowering the incentive payment to $7308. If we accepted the package outlined at the previous session, Comcast would increase the access fee multiplier to $60 per unit, or $12,180. Board members agreed that their primary responsibility was to keep the cost as low as possible, and allow unit owners who want to supplement the basic package to pay for any specific enhancements they may select. By a unanimous vote, the Board opted for the less expensive package.
Two factors primarily affect the affordability of any utility service, the current charges for the service and the rate at which those charges can be increased. In the existing contract, basic costs escalate annually by 6%. In the proposed contract, the committee negotiated a decrease in the annual escalator to 5%.
The “Comparative Savings Summary” depicted in the adjacent table demonstrates the annual savings derived of freezing the current rate and extending it through the first two years of a five-year Comcast contract while reducing the annual escalator from 6% to 5% (the proposed annual 5% escalator will not be applied until the third year of the contract). Subtracting the monthly amount payable each year WITH the 2-year rate freeze and reduced escalator (proposed) from the monthly amount payable WITHOUT the 2-year freeze and the reduced escalator (current) yields the monthly savings throughout that year. The annualized savings is calculated by multiplying the monthly savings by 12. Taxes and fees are excluded.
After having received a pre-vetted contract reflecting the negotiated terms in mid-October, it was forwarded to association attorney Michael Bender’s office, where associate Andrew Black worked with Decker, Hutter and Comcast attorneys to hammer out a final product.
In summary, the 5-year basic package features cable boxes for 3 televisions in each unit, including a minimum of 2 DTAs and one digital set-top box. The association will be given 5 complimentary video outlets (2 in the Gym, 1 in the Game Room and 2 in the Office, 2 complimentary internet outlets (Office, Receiving Room) and 1 in-house channel. Every unit owner will receive On Demand Services (hundreds of free movies, television series, specials, etc.), 100-station DTA channel lineup, 120-station Digital Starter channel lineup, 8 HBO channels and HBO On Demand (scores of high-end movies).
42 years later, the fan that pulled air through the Regency Tower garage since 1969 gave up the ghost. Following an in-depth investigation of replacement alternatives, the Board voted to replace the rusting hulk in the southeast corner of the garage with the TCTA “Tubeaxial Fan” manufactured by Twin City Fan & Blower. A cast aluminum alloy wheel that turns 60-inch fan blades sits in a one-piece heavy gauge hot-rolled steel housing. Installed by bid-winner Custom Air Designs under the supervision of Structural Engineer John Evans from Swaysland Professional Engineering Consultants (SPEC), the new monster will manage our below grade ventilation for the next 40 years.
Moore’s Law (named for legendary Intel co-founder Gordon E. Moore) states that a technological component shrinks to one half its current size every eighteen to twenty four months (it actually states that the number of transistors that fit on a chip – an integrated circuit – will double approximately every two years – same difference). When this occurs, the cost of the previous generation’s components drops precipitously. At some point, the detection system will pass fiscal muster and become a no-brainer. As such, the question is not “if” we will install a control system, but “when.”
While the engineer mechanically (and financially) reprieved the rooftop cooling tower for another year and the building’s main drainage elements in the garage and lower driveway are already scheduled to undergo rehabilitative maintenance by Jaffer Wells this summer, the board also approved the installation of inexpensive flood monitoring devices at the base of every unit’s A/C & water heater closet, where many of our most recent floods began. The high-pitched alert will help prevent otherwise undetectable leaks from inundating the entire stack below – before spreading to adjacent units (...if you hear this, call security – DO NOT TOUCH!).
Water purged from the building and the parking decks feeds into two catch basins at the base of the driveway entrance and exit ramps. It also feeds into two other catch basins in the lower driveway near the garage door. These catch basins are connected by large 18-inch pipes couched in a 72-inch trench and wrapped in permeable landscape cloth, perforated along the bottom and covered with a drain sleeve fabric. Called French Drains, they are filled with stones and sit on several yards of crushed rock. Water in the pipes is ordinarily absorbed into the surrounding ground. However, when the lower driveway becomes fully saturated, the pipes carry the water to a fifth catch basin near the sidewalk planter in the center of the lower driveway. Connected to an adjacent gravity well, when that central catch basin becomes filled, the water spills 161 feet down the well to a hard rock and coral geological shelf that carries it to the ocean.
Since the garage flooded whenever it rained for more than 34 years yet remained dry in the eight years since the drainage system was installed, what caused it to flood in October and stop thereafter? After almost a decade of draught conditions, October of 2011 was one of the five wettest months in Fort Lauderdale history. The last time that precipitation so fully saturated the Barrier Island was in October, 1999, when Hurricane Irene soaked the region for nine days.
Instead of waiting until water begins collecting in the garage, the engineer suggested that we issue preemptive notifications when conditions precedent to the flooding occur. If the ground becomes fully saturated following a week to ten days of daily rainfall, and more rain is expected, alerted owners would have up to 24 hours to relocate their vehicles outside, not just a few minutes. The South Florida Water Management District advised us to monitor their website for high saturation levels on the Barrier Island. When that occurs, and more rain is expected within 24 hours, the office could notify the affected vehicle owners.
Precautionary warnings that depend on weather forecasts aren’t foolproof. Predicted flooding may not occur – or may be manageable by our drainage system. Since those impacted own deeded parking spaces, each must decide whether or not to move their cars when called. When not in residence, affected vehicle owners can make arrangements to have their cars moved by friends or neighbors.
While purging the catch basins and the garage door trench drain are modest procedures, cleaning the well is a 3-day ordeal. Jaffer, the company that installed our well – and the only company that cleans wells in South Florida – recommends this palliative every four years. Given their monopoly, most engineers believe that their timetable for this $6500 maintenance regimen is overly aggressive. If approved by the board, scheduling drainage and well maintenance during the off season would help minimize the inconvenience. Thank you for your kind attention.
November 8, 2011 - Over the past few days, several unit owners have mentioned that their water tasted a bit different. On October 31, 2011, City of Fort Lauderdale Public Information Specialist Monique J. Damiano sent a notice to the Galt Mile Community Association. Entitled, "City of Fort Lauderdale to Chlorinate Water System" the Public Works message alerted city residents to an aspect of the City's preventive Water Sytem maintenance. The text of the message is as follows: City of Fort Lauderdale to Chlorinate Water System Free chlorination is a common practice for water systems using combined chlorine disinfection. The chlorination period is anticipated to be transparent to our customers; however, some may notice a slight change in the taste or smell of their tap water. This procedure will affect the City of Fort Lauderdale, as well as Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Oakland Park, Port Everglades Authority, Village of Sea Ranch Lakes, Wilton Manors and sections of Davie and Tamarac. The City of Fort Lauderdale maintains the highest standards to ensure that clean high quality drinking water is delivered to water customers. The City's drinking water meets federal, state and local drinking water quality standards. Customers with questions who receive a utility bill from the City of Fort Lauderdale should contact the 24-Hour Customer Service Center at 954-828-8000 or online at www.fortlauderdale.gov/customerservice. Customer Service may also be reached via LauderServ, the City’s Android-based mobile application. For more information about LauderServ or to download the application, please visit www.fortlauderdale.gov/lauderserv. Customers with questions who receive a utility bill from other municipalities or entities should call their respective water provider’s customer service phone number. Monique J. Damiano, MPA The City also treated our drinking water from June 5 through June 26 in 2010. In 2009, Broward County added free chlorine to our drinking water from September 9th through October 21st. The annual alteration in the disinfection chemical mix is prescribed by the Environmental Protection Agency. The periodic switch to free chlorine effectively reduces biological re-growth in the distribution system and helps maintain chlorine residual levels at the extremities of the distribution system during the normal chloramine disinfection process. As exclaimed by Ms. Damiano, residents may experience a slight change in both the taste and smell of the water during this process. The water will remain safe for drinking, cooking, bathing, and other daily needs. However, persons currently undergoing dialysis or suffering from a compromised immune system should consult with their health care provider to determine whether the temporary change in disinfection chemistry will affect their treatment. In addition, residents with a fish tank or pond, including grocery stores and restaurants with lobster tanks and fish containers at bait shops, that rely on city water should contact a pet or aquarium professional to determine the need for any adjustments to their aquarium treatment procedures. Since it takes approximately two weeks for the chlorine to clear, any percieved changes to the taste and smell may persist through early December. Personally, I can't tell the difference!
November 8, 2011 - Over the past few days, several unit owners have mentioned that their water tasted a bit different. On October 31, 2011, City of Fort Lauderdale Public Information Specialist Monique J. Damiano sent a notice to the Galt Mile Community Association. Entitled, "City of Fort Lauderdale to Chlorinate Water System" the Public Works message alerted city residents to an aspect of the City's preventive Water Sytem maintenance. The text of the message is as follows:
City of Fort Lauderdale to Chlorinate Water System
Free chlorination is a common practice for water systems using combined chlorine disinfection. The chlorination period is anticipated to be transparent to our customers; however, some may notice a slight change in the taste or smell of their tap water.
This procedure will affect the City of Fort Lauderdale, as well as Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Oakland Park, Port Everglades Authority, Village of Sea Ranch Lakes, Wilton Manors and sections of Davie and Tamarac.
The City of Fort Lauderdale maintains the highest standards to ensure that clean high quality drinking water is delivered to water customers. The City's drinking water meets federal, state and local drinking water quality standards.
Customers with questions who receive a utility bill from the City of Fort Lauderdale should contact the 24-Hour Customer Service Center at 954-828-8000 or online at www.fortlauderdale.gov/customerservice. Customer Service may also be reached via LauderServ, the City’s Android-based mobile application. For more information about LauderServ or to download the application, please visit www.fortlauderdale.gov/lauderserv.
Customers with questions who receive a utility bill from other municipalities or entities should call their respective water provider’s customer service phone number.
Monique J. Damiano, MPA
The City also treated our drinking water from June 5 through June 26 in 2010. In 2009, Broward County added free chlorine to our drinking water from September 9th through October 21st. The annual alteration in the disinfection chemical mix is prescribed by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The periodic switch to free chlorine effectively reduces biological re-growth in the distribution system and helps maintain chlorine residual levels at the extremities of the distribution system during the normal chloramine disinfection process.
As exclaimed by Ms. Damiano, residents may experience a slight change in both the taste and smell of the water during this process. The water will remain safe for drinking, cooking, bathing, and other daily needs.
However, persons currently undergoing dialysis or suffering from a compromised immune system should consult with their health care provider to determine whether the temporary change in disinfection chemistry will affect their treatment. In addition, residents with a fish tank or pond, including grocery stores and restaurants with lobster tanks and fish containers at bait shops, that rely on city water should contact a pet or aquarium professional to determine the need for any adjustments to their aquarium treatment procedures. Since it takes approximately two weeks for the chlorine to clear, any percieved changes to the taste and smell may persist through early December. Personally, I can't tell the difference!
What the Hell Happened? July 9, 2011 - On Tuesday, June 14th, our new manager survived his first acid test with flying colors. A mid-afternoon flood that quickly spread to more than a dozen floors also engulfed the lobby and the garage. Reminiscent of the serial hurricanes in 2004 and 2005, Regency Tower residents, board members and employees bonded to weather the crisis. However, the event’s happy ending was primarily orchestrated by an employee hired a few days before the deluge.
What the Hell Happened?
July 9, 2011 - On Tuesday, June 14th, our new manager survived his first acid test with flying colors. A mid-afternoon flood that quickly spread to more than a dozen floors also engulfed the lobby and the garage. Reminiscent of the serial hurricanes in 2004 and 2005, Regency Tower residents, board members and employees bonded to weather the crisis. However, the event’s happy ending was primarily orchestrated by an employee hired a few days before the deluge.
While Dwight implemented safety measures, Maintenance Chief Tom Downey located and corrected a blockage responsible for the widespread flooding. After assigning Tommy, Mark and Rocky to help stem the spreading water, our new manager contacted Emergency Services 24, a vendor experienced in mitigating the impact of flash floods. In a brief meeting with Board Vice President Eric Berkowitz, Dwight described several benefits to out-sourcing the job’s wide-ranging containment requirements.
A 20th floor air conditioning drainage line ordinarily used to expel condensation became blocked by an air pocket when a faulty valve failed to close properly. Instead of gravity draining condensation from the A/C unit, negative pressure sucked water back up the line and into the A/C unit. It soon overflowed, serially spilling into many of the individual AC units along the number 4 stack. On some floors where water overflowed into the stack 4 A/C closet, it also spilled into the adjacent hallway, where it was absorbed into the carpeting as well as the hallway baseboard and walls. Rapidly descending through various conduits to the floors below, when the water finally reached the uncarpeted ground floor and garage level, it ponded in the floor’s low areas. On the lobby floor, it filled the mail room and spread to the elevators and security desk. In the garage, it flooded the central walkway, the maintenance room and a meter room housing high voltage breakers. As it penetrated each floor, the water corrupted ceiling tiles. As such, more than half of the ceiling tiles in the mail room were destroyed. The water also damaged some wiring above the mail room ceiling.
Since our fire safety system is fully code compliant, when a small amount of water infiltrated an elevator shaft, our automated call system notified the Fire Department, bringing a contingent of Fire-Rescue personnel to the scene. Absent any fire, the fire safety staffers meandered aimlessly around the building. To better illustrate circumstances surrounding the flood, Dwight escorted one firefighter to the roof and described the roof-top water tower as a central element of the building’s HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system. After strolling about the roof for a few minutes, the firefighter found Dwight and proudly announced “I just turned off the pumps.” Dwight was perplexed. There are no pumps on the roof. The pumps were still operating in the garage level maintenance room when the impulsive city employee enigmatically decided to flip some switches and twist a valve he found near the water tower.
Having in fact turned off a fan and a pressure equalizer, the would-be Samaritan inadvertently precipitated an irreversible pressure buildup. Within minutes, a coupling burst and flooded the roof. When Honeywell funded a new roof for Regency Tower in 2002, it was redesigned to mitigate huge volumes of hurricane stormwater. As the content of our water tower explosively discharged, it drained harmlessly from the roof. However, the broken coupling would have to be replaced and the damage repaired before the water tower could be re-engaged. Until then – we would have no air conditioning.
As Fire-Rescue prepared to depart after trashing our air conditioning – during a heat wave – Dwight diplomatically thanked the boys in black for their “good intentions”. He also called Edd Helms, the company contracted to maintain our HVAC systems. After reviewing the damage caused by Fire-Rescue, the HVAC supervisor sent a crew member to pick up some replacement parts while others began repairing the exploded coupling’s attachments.
By 6 PM, the flood mitigation crew from Emergency Services 24 were vacuuming the saturated hallway carpets and setting high powered blowers to expedite the drying process. Fortunately, only two unoccupied units were penetrated by the flood. The crew quickly cleared them of water and set additional blowers to preclude incipient damage.
At 9 PM, the HVAC crew from Ed Helms reported that the coupling was repaired and the water tower was being filled. Following some test runs to insure that the newly replaced coupling was fully functional, the system was reactivated. Eileen and Dwight led the team of volunteers back into the hallways, where they turned on hundreds of idle air conditioners. At 10 PM, Carlos utilized the emergency P.A. system to inform grateful residents that their air conditioners were up and running. For two more days, blowers continued drying the most heavily saturated carpeted areas as Dwight retained an electrician to repair the damaged wiring above the mailroom ceiling.
Following the incident, when Eileen and Eric thanked Dwight for successfully managing the flood, he declined the praise, instead crediting our employees and residents for the expedited recovery. During the next few days, after personally thanking maintenance and security personnel for their disciplined and professional response to the emergency, he remarked that he was most impressed by their sincere concern for the safety and wellbeing of the building’s residents. Dwight admitted to being similarly surprised by how well residents cooperated with staff when faced with adversity. Dwight conceded “This place really is like a big family.”
The crisis cloaked an appreciable silver lining. Ordinarily, when a manager is hired, months pass before residents and employees become adequately confident in his or her capabilities to confirm that the board made the right choice. The process is sometimes marked by confusing pre-emptive resignations and/or questionable dismissals. If things go well, the manager slowly earns the residents’ respect and the staff’s trust.
The incident served to fast track this traditional gauntlet. Observing how the new manager reacted under pressure provided residents and staffers with insight into the operational arsenal and leadership flexibility he brings to the table. During the next few days, as residents spoke with board members and employees about the flood, they invariably applauded Dwight’s management of the emergency. This new found confidence also permeated the staff. Overnight, residual reservations about their new boss seemingly dissipated.
The next time you run into Dwight, you might want to thank him for whatever money is still in your pocket!
Emergency Alert from Comcast
Emergency Alert from Comcast
The residents are entitled to receive up to 3 DTAs free of charge. If you have more than 3 televisions, a monthly fee of $1.99 for each additional adapter installed will appear on your monthly statement.
If you are unable to attend the event on April 20, 2011, please call 1-877-634-4434. Any resident that schedules an appointment before or after the event date to have the DTA equipment installed will be charged a onetime install fee of $17.90.
Additional Info about the DTA Event
The Digital Adapter (DTA) and the Digital Set-Top Box
Why does the picture not fill my screen after I installed my digital adapter?
Now it’s Our Turn to Act!
Now it’s Our Turn to Act!
When the Governor learned that the Sprinkler Association lobby manipulated the 2002 legislature into passing the nation’s only mandate to retrofit buildings that were already fully compliant with State and local fire codes – a $multi-billion self-styled “stimulus package” for the Sprinkler Industry – he agreed to help the 18,000 Florida condo and co-op associations whose members objected to footing the bill for retrofits that the Florida insurance industry not only officially characterized as unworthy of any rate reduction but could boost rates due to prospective water damage.
To opt-out of the sprinkler installation and forego the expensive assessment, an association must first conduct a vote of the membership. If a majority of the association’s members vote FOR OPTING OUT of the retrofit requirement, they don’t have to comply with the existing sprinkler mandate. It’s as simple as that. The voting results are then filed with the County and entered into a State database. Until this is accomplished, a local fire marshal can notify an Association to submit expensive engineering plans for retrofitting the building. To avoid this particularly unpleasant prospect, our Board decided to hold the vote as soon as possible, immunizing our unit owners against any impulse by the local fire marshal to trigger any assessment.
Unwilling to leave $billions in projected revenues on the table, the deep-pocketed Sprinkler Associations, whose membership includes corporate juggernauts Tyco and Allied Signal-Honeywell, successfully kept their stimulus package alive for eight years and convinced two Governors to veto relief bills that were overwhelmingly passed by the legislature. Make no mistake; they know how to play political hardball.
By registering our intentions prior to the legislative session, we can join with thousands of other common interest communities and deter any attempts to revive this expensive burden.
I Don't Understand the Proxy Package!
Since our attorney tailored the proxy to conform with the complicated relief legislation, it's not surprising that the proxy language is confusing. As defined in the Proxy Page, the issue we are voting on is whether or not we want “To forego retrofitting the Common Elements, Association Property or Units with a fire sprinkler system as authorized in Section 718.112(2)(l) of the Florida Statutes.”
We are then provided with an opportunity to vote FOR or AGAINST. Here's the deal. If you are in favor of opting out and avoiding the huge assessment, vote “FOR”. If you DO NOT want to opt out of the expensive requirement to install the sprinklers, vote “AGAINST”. Get the idea! If you are still confused by how the proxy is worded, call Eric Berkowitz at 954-564-4427.
Unit Owners Catch a Break November 2, 2010 - The Regency Tower Board finally plugged a four year drain on the finances of every Regency Tower unit owner. When the former owner of Unit 1508 stopped paying his association dues years ago, his share of the Association expenses was unceremoniously dumped onto every other association member. After years of countering a litany of legal tactics that delayed foreclosure and further compounded every owner’s fiscal burden, the delinquent was finally evicted on Tuesday, October 26, 2010. Unfortunately, when the former unit owner dropped by to ostensibly collect a few remaining “personal possessions”, he grabbed anything that wasn’t nailed down - along with many things that were. Following his departure, security and maintenance staffers documented and photographed a unit awash in broken, missing and partially lifted floor tiles, sections of missing cove molding, large holes where eviscerated bathroom medicine chests were ripped from the wall and exposed wiring at fixture plates and room outlets. Every appliance was missing. Closer inspection of the electrical connection points revealed that wiring was missing deep into the walls. As a result, maintenance will spend the next few weeks repairing the damage. More about this later (a lot more). How Can I Help? The Administration’s current charge is to restore the unit’s ability to produce income for the Association. Before Unit 1508 can be rented or sold, the extensive damage must be repaired and the unit restocked with basic appliances and furniture. On November 1st, Manager Nicholson-Brown began scouting these necessities. After contacting thrift shops for leads, the Manager posted notices asking unit owners to contribute items planned for replacement or the dumpster (second-hand is fine). Since it is unlikely that contributions will include the major appliances needed to make the unit livable, if not marketable, the manager is researching sale-priced ovens, stoves, microwaves and refrigerators. Hopefully, donations will replace some of the basic furnishings, including a table, chairs, sofa(s), coffee table, bed, mattress & box spring, bed frame, linens, pillows, curtains, utensils, pots & pans, dishes, glassware, etc. Anything you can donate will help facilitate the unit’s transformation into an income producing association asset. We also welcome any decorative pillows, vases, balcony furnishings, rugs, pictures, plants, paintings and wall hangings. Items that cannot be replaced from donations or scavenged from thrift shops will have to be purchased. While donations will help defray expenses, the objective is to bring in fresh rental or sales income. The relevant Confucian logic is simple, despite its striking similarity to a fortune cookie euphemism - the more we donate - the less we spend – the more we make!
Unit Owners Catch a Break
November 2, 2010 - The Regency Tower Board finally plugged a four year drain on the finances of every Regency Tower unit owner. When the former owner of Unit 1508 stopped paying his association dues years ago, his share of the Association expenses was unceremoniously dumped onto every other association member. After years of countering a litany of legal tactics that delayed foreclosure and further compounded every owner’s fiscal burden, the delinquent was finally evicted on Tuesday, October 26, 2010.
Unfortunately, when the former unit owner dropped by to ostensibly collect a few remaining “personal possessions”, he grabbed anything that wasn’t nailed down - along with many things that were. Following his departure, security and maintenance staffers documented and photographed a unit awash in broken, missing and partially lifted floor tiles, sections of missing cove molding, large holes where eviscerated bathroom medicine chests were ripped from the wall and exposed wiring at fixture plates and room outlets. Every appliance was missing. Closer inspection of the electrical connection points revealed that wiring was missing deep into the walls. As a result, maintenance will spend the next few weeks repairing the damage. More about this later (a lot more).
How Can I Help?
The Administration’s current charge is to restore the unit’s ability to produce income for the Association. Before Unit 1508 can be rented or sold, the extensive damage must be repaired and the unit restocked with basic appliances and furniture. On November 1st, Manager Nicholson-Brown began scouting these necessities. After contacting thrift shops for leads, the Manager posted notices asking unit owners to contribute items planned for replacement or the dumpster (second-hand is fine).
Since it is unlikely that contributions will include the major appliances needed to make the unit livable, if not marketable, the manager is researching sale-priced ovens, stoves, microwaves and refrigerators. Hopefully, donations will replace some of the basic furnishings, including a table, chairs, sofa(s), coffee table, bed, mattress & box spring, bed frame, linens, pillows, curtains, utensils, pots & pans, dishes, glassware, etc.
Anything you can donate will help facilitate the unit’s transformation into an income producing association asset. We also welcome any decorative pillows, vases, balcony furnishings, rugs, pictures, plants, paintings and wall hangings. Items that cannot be replaced from donations or scavenged from thrift shops will have to be purchased. While donations will help defray expenses, the objective is to bring in fresh rental or sales income. The relevant Confucian logic is simple, despite its striking similarity to a fortune cookie euphemism - the more we donate - the less we spend – the more we make!
Where’s the Sand?
Where’s the Sand?
At the May 13, 2003 meeting of the Florida Cabinet, representatives of every major grass roots and governmental environmental organization stressed the importance of preserving the beach habitat by implementing the Beach Renourishment plan approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and further adapted by every Federal and State Environmental Agency. To better protect the surrounding marine environment, the Florida Cabinet mandated an 18-month monitoring period following the renourishment of South Broward’s beaches. Data included in a subsequent report to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would be used to enhance environmental mitigations for the next stage (Segment II) of the County’s comprehensive coastal rescue plan.
After the monitoring period ended in late August of 2007, a report was compiled by the official monitors from Nova Southeastern University and a joint venture of coastal engineering consulting firms, including Coastal Planning and Engineering, Inc. and Olsen Asssociates, Inc. When it arrived in Tallahassee, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) analyzed their observations. Along with an evaluation of the post-renourishment beach environment, the report documented two species of coral in the catchment area that the federal government designated as “threatened” in 2006. DEP notified their Broward counterpart that these new corals should be added to the list of protected marine organisms prior to the upcoming Segment II project.
Following several housekeeping correspondences addressing port inlet maintenance, communications between the Broward Biological Resources Division and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection inexplicably broke down. When asked by GMCA officials about the Segment II project, the County beach officials responded with a series of irrelevant diversions throughout 2008 and 2009, focusing instead on additional erosion control devices and a nondescript hunt for sand. When the County applied to the City of Fort Lauderdale for permission to enhance erosion control at Port Everglades on January 6, 2009, a frustrated City Commission refused access to the County, insisting that they first complete the promised Segment II renourishment of Fort Lauderdale’s beaches.
Soon after, the City posted a page on their web site entitled “Help Save Fort Lauderdale Beach,” which provides the email addresses of the County Commissioners and states “The Fort Lauderdale City Commissioners need your help to make sure that Fort Lauderdale is not pushed to the back of the line. Let Broward County know that you oppose the proposed Port Everglades Sand Bypass Project and that you want them to implement the Segment II Beach Renourishment Project as promised.” Their inclusion of Commissioner Keechl on the contact list wasn’t necessary, since he had previously emailed the City Commission expressing those same sentiments.
The GMCA elicited an agreement from Sole to personally oversee future interagency communications and another from Keechl to closely follow the County’s progress. Factoring in the additional time required for permitting exigencies and statutory delays attendant to turtle nesting season, the Segment II starting date is projected for late 2011.
Since the plan to rehabilitate our Segment II beaches was initially developed by the County and approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Broward coast has subsequently experienced severe incremental storm damage, predominantly from the serial hurricanes of 2004 and 2005. While all of the Segment II beaches were affected, several beach areas in Pompano and Lauderdale-by-the Sea suffered nearly full displacement. Prior to implementing the planned beach renourishment, a County-conceived interim effort is expected to return these beaches to their pre-storm (2004) condition - while providing a serendipitous benefit to the Galt Ocean Mile beach.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, has allocated $4.5 million to initiate the planning, engineering and design of an approved storm reclamation effort entitled “Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies Project” (FCCE). In a nutshell, before commencing the Segment II beach renourishment, the county plans to dump huge volumes of sand on compromised beach areas just north of Anglin’s Pier. Project engineers confirm that the sand will naturally drift south, providing a near-immediate benefit to the northernmost Galt Ocean Mile beach. Within months, the continually migrating sand will similarly enhance beach footage along the entire Galt Mile. Ultimately, along with roughly 100 to 150 feet of sand from the Segment II beach renourishment, the Galt Ocean Mile Beach should realize an additional 15 to 30 feet of beach area from the FCCE project. Former Director Steve Somerville of the Broward County Department of Planning and Environmental Protection (DPEP) offered this less than memorable observation at the 2003 Florida Cabinet hearing, “You can never have too much sand on the beach.”
In addition to updates relating to Segments I and III of the Beach Renourishment Project, Bertha Henry’s notice to the City contained the following data about the General Information and Segment II project components (which includes the Galt Ocean Mile beach). Read on...
While “heads on a platter” are a poor substitute for a healthy beach, Advisory Board members are sufficiently irate to take a cue from Mayor Keechl and “raise hell” if project progress is again victimized by ineptitude. As future notices are reviewed by the GMCA Advisory Board, they will also be posted on the Galt Mile web site. More to come...
Plugging Holes in the Fiscal Bucket February 22, 2010 - Of the costly issues currently facing Regency Tower residents, two are distinguished by a brief opportunity to defuse their threatened fiscal impact. Our reaction to the first one will determine whether each of us will be forced to pony up from $8000 to $18,000 for an assessment yielding a questionable benefit. The second issue is far less dramatic in effect. A policy implemented by the Fort Lauderdale City Commission will pump revenue into the City treasury while abating traffic accidents. Although a laudable objective, this budgetary infusion will derive primarily from our unsuspecting snowbird neighbors upon returning to their Florida homes. 1st Issue: Burning Cash At a 2009 Regency Tower board meeting, a concerned homeowner suggested that we begin setting aside reserve funds for an extremely expensive sprinkler system currently mandated by Florida Statute for installation by 2014. Enacted in 2002, the statute was drafted by lobbyists for the American Fire Sprinkler Association, the National Fire Sprinkler Association (trade groups created to sell sprinkler systems) and the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union. The bill guaranteed a $multi-billion payday for these entities – at our expense. When initially filed in 2002, certain representatives from the Florida Fire Marshals and Inspectors Association (FFMIA) called on legislators to pass the bill as a testament to their “concern for the safety of our heroic firefighters.” Instead of presenting authoritative documentation demonstrating that a variety of different fire safety solutions should be tailored to a structure’s material composition, size, entry and egress, construction features and existing fire safety elements, the impressively uniformed lobbyists convinced key lawmakers that sprinkler retrofits were a fire safety panacea for every condominium. Their arguments were unabashedly “accompanied” by strategic contributions to the legislators’ campaign coffers.
Plugging Holes in the Fiscal Bucket
February 22, 2010 - Of the costly issues currently facing Regency Tower residents, two are distinguished by a brief opportunity to defuse their threatened fiscal impact. Our reaction to the first one will determine whether each of us will be forced to pony up from $8000 to $18,000 for an assessment yielding a questionable benefit. The second issue is far less dramatic in effect. A policy implemented by the Fort Lauderdale City Commission will pump revenue into the City treasury while abating traffic accidents. Although a laudable objective, this budgetary infusion will derive primarily from our unsuspecting snowbird neighbors upon returning to their Florida homes.
1st Issue: Burning Cash
At a 2009 Regency Tower board meeting, a concerned homeowner suggested that we begin setting aside reserve funds for an extremely expensive sprinkler system currently mandated by Florida Statute for installation by 2014. Enacted in 2002, the statute was drafted by lobbyists for the American Fire Sprinkler Association, the National Fire Sprinkler Association (trade groups created to sell sprinkler systems) and the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union. The bill guaranteed a $multi-billion payday for these entities – at our expense.
When initially filed in 2002, certain representatives from the Florida Fire Marshals and Inspectors Association (FFMIA) called on legislators to pass the bill as a testament to their “concern for the safety of our heroic firefighters.” Instead of presenting authoritative documentation demonstrating that a variety of different fire safety solutions should be tailored to a structure’s material composition, size, entry and egress, construction features and existing fire safety elements, the impressively uniformed lobbyists convinced key lawmakers that sprinkler retrofits were a fire safety panacea for every condominium. Their arguments were unabashedly “accompanied” by strategic contributions to the legislators’ campaign coffers.
Make no mistake. The statutory “Alternative Minimum Life Safety System” was never intended for extinguishing fires. Its stated objective is to provide a moderately safe egress. It is only one of many layers of fire protection in an engineered fire safety plan. Since effective early detection and containment will save far more lives than the sprinklers placed in unit foyers and certain common areas (as required for an Alternative Minimum Life Safety Plan), they are arguably more important components to any integrated fire safety system. During legislative committee review, the Statehouse staff assessment questioned the productivity of the statute’s sizable expense to homeowners, confirming that throughout Florida’s history, not one life would have been saved by installing sprinkler heads in unit foyers.
To provide relief for association members besieged by hurricane-related expenses, the 2006 Florida Legislature unanimously passed House Bill 391, extending the deadline for retrofitting sprinklers in high rise unit foyers and common areas from the current 2014 to 2025. Despite a favorable vote by every single lawmaker in the Senate and the Statehouse, lame duck Governor Jeb Bush vetoed the bill – a parting gift to the sprinkler associations for their earlier campaign generosity.
On January 4, 2010, Representative Bogdanoff filed House Bill 561, which improves on the sprinkler retrofit resolution napalmed earlier by the Governor. The bill returns the retrofit decision back to the homeowners who must live with and pay for that decision. By a vote of two-thirds of the unit owners, a high rise association would be able to completely opt-out of the sprinkler retrofit and the huge assessment. To insure that the decision to opt out reflects the intentions of unit owners in perpetuity, the vote can be repeated every three years. Broward Senator Jeremy Ring filed Senate Bill 1222, which mirrors the text of Bogdanoff’s bill in the other chamber. Click here to read the actual text of the "opt out" provision.
However, Governor Crist has demonstrated a marked proclivity for flip-flopping when faced with political decisions, especially if they impact his dream job in Washington D.C. After agreeing to support the opt-out bill, he has already made public statements that he might again veto such legislation. Fortunately, the Governor’s political handlers reliably respond to voter feedback that could affect his Senate seat aspirations. In a nutshell, they are measuring the Sprinkler Associations' contention that few association members would care about the huge assessment. Representative Bogdanoff clarified, “Every condo and co-op owner needs to contact the Governor and express their concern about funding this questionable assessment in this economic climate.”
The Bottom Line
If you don’t have substantial resources squirreled away for this highly dubious expense, you can impact Crist’s decision. While municipal resolutions are important vehicles for framing this issue, YOUR INPUT will ultimately determine the outcome of this dilemma. Along with our Galt Mile neighbors, Regency Tower is joining with thousands of associations across Florida in a campaign to contact the Governor and indicate support for this legislation. Please take a moment to send an email or letter to the Governor asking that he support House Bill 561... or start saving thousands of dollars for an upcoming assessment! After all... it’s your money!
Make a Difference!
Don't like emails? Either call or send a letter to the Governor at:
For a comprehensive review of the fire sprinkler retrofit issue and the threatened assessment, Click Here
2nd Issue: Red Light Traffic Cameras
The second issue is a warning of sorts. Those of you who followed discussions about the City’s FY 2010 budget possibly remember one of the more esoteric sources of municipal revenue, the “Automated Camera Red Light Traffic Enforcement System.” The traffic lights at ten dangerous intersections around the city have been earmarked for connection to high resolution video cameras. The cameras will snap images of vehicles that are caught in the intersection after the light turns red. Based on close-ups of the license plate, tickets will automatically be issued to the vehicle’s owner, not the transgressing driver.
In 2005, when Pembroke Pines City Attorney Sam Goren asked then Attorney General Charlie Crist for a relevant legal opinion, Crist concluded that cities couldn’t issue red light traffic tickets without changes to the State’s uniform traffic code. This further weakened the legal underpinnings of a system already beset by a constitutional “due process” controversy since the vehicle’s owner is punished for the driver’s infraction. Despite the potential legal quagmire, many municipalities throughout the State have opted to proceed with installing a red light camera enforcement system because it reliably fills shortfalls in the City budget. Studies also indicate that monitored intersections realize a drop in accidents, injuries and fatalities. While focusing on the public safety benefit, local jurisdictions circumvent the system’s legal obstacles by implanting a special ordinance into the municipal code - not unlike the one passed by the Fort Lauderdale City Commission last June. Hence, the resulting tickets will be issued for local code violations, not for infractions of the traffic law.
Attention: Regency Tower Snowbirds
Generally oblivious to which locations were selected for surveillance, unsuspecting visitors and “snowbirds” statistically comprise the majority of vehicle owners tagged at camera equipped intersections. Since familiarizing oneself with the ten sites designated for initial placement can thwart potential victimization, the list has been posted below. Please note that three locations are right up the block on Federal Highway at both Commercial and Oakland Park Boulevards. As local drivers are well aware, the long traffic lights at these intersections prompt many drivers to speed through yellow lights to beat out the annoying delay. Forget it! To avoid an automatic $125 fine – or spending a day futilely pleading before a Special Magistrate (who is paid by the City) – stop the damned car and wait out the 2 minutes! Within the City of Fort Lauderdale, cameras will be mounted on red lights at the following intersections:
Eastbound East Sunrise Boulevard at NE 15th Ave;
Southbound NE 15th Ave at East Sunrise Boulevard;
Southbound North Federal Highway at East Oakland Park Boulevard;
Westbound NW 62nd Street/West Cypress Creek Road at NW 9th Ave/Powerline Road;
Eastbound NW 62nd Street/West Cypress Creek Road at NW 31st Ave;
Southbound NW 31st Ave at NW 62nd Street/West Cypress Creek Road;
Eastbound West Sunrise Boulevard at NW 9th Ave;
Westbound West Sunrise Boulevard at NW 9th Ave;
Eastbound East Commercial Boulevard at North Federal Highway/U.S. 1 and
Westbound East Commercial Boulevard at North Federal Highway/U.S. 1
PS: If the City of Oakland Park also proceeds with plans to install the camera enforcement system at intersections deemed by the Broward Sherriff’s Office (BSO) as the most dangerous within the Oakland Park jurisdiction, monitored sites will likely include Dixie Highway at Commercial and Oakland Park Boulevards, just a few blocks farther west. Stay alert... stay alive... and save money!
For additional information about the Red Light Camera Enforcement System and the surrounding legal, constitutional and financial controversies, Click Here
Paint Project Completed!!!
October 2, 2009 - The job is done. Our home enjoys a new - desperately needed - protective coating. The tricky stack 11 challenge was tackled without encountering any of the obstacles that previously forced a reconsideration of the project strategy. Following completion of the south and west building faces, the contractor expected to commence painting the north wall starting at easternmost corner and heading west (toward the street). As they'd done for each new stack, the crew assembled the high pressure cleaning equipment in preparation for removing old layers of paint and adequately cleaning the surface. Under the forceful spray, hundreds of delaminated paint chips and loose chunks of stucco were expunged from the exterior wall. As fortune would have it, winds shooting through the inter-building vortex carried the waste artifacts far afield. Unsuspecting Playa del Mar poolgoers were suddenly deluged by construction debris. The project ground to a halt.
Those of you who have been following the project, either by direct observation or by reviewing posted updates, are aware that the contractor adjusted expeditiously when confronted by potential setbacks. By providing his crews with effective on-site supervision and reacting quickly to unforeseen obstacles, Hricko averaged less than two weeks for each stack. When stalled by dangerously unacceptable wind speeds, Hricko transferred personnel to one of the perimeter walls or planters, thereby making progress with some of the less exposed contract responsibilities. By shifting his staff accordingly, Hricko turned prospective setbacks into opportunities. As a result of his applying this strategy religiously, by the time the exterior walls were finished, he had also completed 99% of the mostly grade-level low risk work (lower driveway walls, perimeter walls, planters, rooftop parapets and mechanical room, etc. - none of which required scaffolding access). At an early planning meeting, Hricko responded to a question about the project timetable by asserting that although the job could take three months if blessed with perfect weather and no shutter or tile removals, we should double that to frame a realistic estimate. In fact, he wrapped it up in five and a half months.
While Construction Committee members Eric Berkowitz and Ron Forment helped facilitate the paint project, Building Manager Dott Nicholson-Brown road herd on the paint crews every day for five and a half months and Board President Dee Lanzillo coordinated maintenance staff activities with those of the paint crews to expedite the project. We are also grateful to the dozens of other residents who made useful contributions and suggestions in response to project demands. Our heartfelt thanks to one and all. Notwithstanding, every Regency Tower resident can take a deep breath, secure in the knowledge that they won't be inconvenienced by paint crews again until 2019!
That's all, folks!
Rounding the Three Quarter Mark
Whenever she notices rain, Dott chases down the project supervisor or one of the crew chiefs. She will start discussing some marginally relevant issue, continuing until the rain passes. When the wet weather abates, she sends the guys back to work, having deterred their “calling it a day” earlier. By implementing this intuitive strategy, casually known as the “Yenta Tactic”, Dott single-handedly reclaimed potentially lost work time that would have otherwise extended the project for weeks. When the rain “break” lasts more than a few minutes, she gently steers the discussion back to the office, where she can attend to other association business while verbally preoccupying her “captive audience.” Since these “ad hoc” meetings also serve to bring the Manager up to speed on any problems anticipated by the job supervisor or project manager, how they addressed previously discussed obstacles and any other issues that currently impact project progress, they replace the need for specifically scheduled progress meetings - thereby saving additional time which can instead be reallocated to advance the project. All told, the cumulative effects of the “Yenta Tactic” (patent pending) will cut the project time by at least a month.
By August 21st, one crew was working on Stack 9 and the north side center section. If afforded reasonably dry weather, they expect to complete this “three quarter mark” by August 29th. Crews originally planned to commence Stack 10 preparations on Saturday, August 22nd, removing indicated shutters, pressure cleaning surfaces and patching any uncovered cracks, holes and/or defects through which water could infiltrate.
After the preparations started, the job supervisor extended the Stack 10 preparations to include the Stack 11 master bedroom drop. Drawing on experience gleaned from the south side of the building, the supervisor opted to “jump start” the large expanse between the Stack 10 and Stack 11 balconies. On Monday, August 24th, full blown Stack 11 preparations begin. Stack 11 is the project’s “Big Mama”. It includes three large window drops on the north side, a double drop wrap-around balcony and turning the northeast corner to complete the northern half of the east-facing wall, boding two more window drops. In addition, when they pressure clean the exterior wall, special attention must be paid to avoid spreading debris to the Playa del Mar pool deck.
Following completion of the south side and the building entrance, it was originally planned to jump to the north side and mirror the strategy successfully used on the south side - starting on the easternmost part of the north face and working west - directionally consistent with the unusually strong on-shore winds. As usual, we celebrated the heavy fallout of excised debris when power washing the 11 Stack. Unfortunately, winds carried the flying paint chips, dislodged caulk blocks and chunks of loose stucco past the north parking deck - ultimately raining down on our neighbors futilely trying to enjoy the Playa del Mar pool. We quickly reversed the planned completion route, moving the crews to the westernmost side of the north face and bidding them work their way east. As they rebooted the project, a net was created to catch debris ancillary to the high-pressure power wash. Since the device must be attached and dismantled for each drop overlooking the Playa del Mar pool deck, Stack 11 preparations will carry a premium in both time and effort.
More to come...
Project Snag at Stack 11
July 26, 2009 - On Friday, July 24th, the Paint Project personnel wrapped up business on the south side of Regency Tower, completing the south-facing wall of the 6 stack. Simultaneously, another crew was making progress on the building front, completing preparations on the adjacent west-facing wall of the 6 stack. Several crews have been working in tandem to benefit from the arguably dry weather, albeit brutally hot and humid. Unfortunately, the crew preparing the 11 stack was gored by the horns of a dilemma.
Work on the 11 stack was immediately halted. To keep all crews working, they were transferred to the west side of the building and tasked with preparing the north side of the 7 stack - far from the Playa del Mar pool. Until this unfortunate construction glitch is resolved by the contractor, the crew assigned to the north side will now work its way east. Building Manager Dott Nicholson-Brown immediately issued a building notice to unit owners explaing the change in strategy. As per the manager's notice, crews next focused on shutter removal and power washing along the stack 7 exterior wall. By Monday, September 27th, shutter removal and power washing commenced on stack 8.
More to come...
Comin' Round the Bend!
As work on the South side wends its way towards a successful culmination, the contractor will commence power washing the front entrance and the drive-through's protective Portico. Accordingly, the Front Entrance doors will temporarily be OFF LIMITS and LOCKED! Alternative entry and egress will be available via the north and south lobby doors, as well as through the garage. Mirroring the strategy implemented on the south side, the north side of the building will be painted from east to west - directionally consistent with the strong winds. The project will therefore return to the 11 stack on Thursday, July 16th to kick off painting and waterproofing the structure's north side. Although the east-facing side of the 11 stack was completed at the project's outset, stack 11 unit owners should prepare for shutter removal and power washing on the north side exterior wall. Closing windows with northern exposures and removing balcony furnishings is recommended. Residents inhabiting units in stacks 10 and 9 should plan following suit in short order.
Those of you in residence during the past few months have doubtless noticed the significant profusion of paint chips and stucco flakes on the deck. Although this unavoidable construction debris is swept up and disposed of daily, it is an excellent indication of how thoroughly the target surfaces are being prepared. The inadequate removal of dirt, blisters, degraded stucco and flaking paint is one of the primary causes of project failure when repainting a building. Contractors that superficially clean and prepare the surface risk leaving layers of old paint and pulverized masonry mixed with dirt that will soon peel, delaminating the freshly applied coating as well. The intensive power washing and hand scraping performed by the paint crews are integral to safeguarding Regency Tower from such a fate.
Despite the exasperating and shameful conduct by a couple of Regency Tower guests that precipitated the premature termination of our arrangement with Playa del Mar, we would like to thank the scores of Regency Tower residents and guests who behaved in an exemplary manner and treated our host with courtesy and respect. The extent to which a few individuals repeatedly abused the hospitality exhibited by Playa del Mar's residents and staff is a source of embarrassment and deep regret. As such, we sent a letter to Playa del Mar residents, board members, administration and staff expressing our gratitude for their benevolent accommodation, our sincere apologies for the repugnant and reprehensible incidents and our abiding appreciation for their understanding and forebearance.
More to come...
The coping that lines the pool perimeter will be stained with a skid resistant product designed to enhance traction. Essentially, sand is mixed with the stain prior to being painted onto the coping surface. The pool must be filled with water immediately following the Diamond Brite application to prevent "sun cracking", wherein overheating interferes with the normal curing process. By introducing the water through two specialized filters, the new surface is protected from contamination. The area will then be thoroughly power-washed and scrubbed. Once the pool is filled with filtered water, it will be chemically balanced in preparation for the grand opening. If blessed with good weather, the entire process can be completed within a week!
The painting teams are also making progress, despite the continuing wet weather. Stack 1 is finished and Stack 2 will be finished on Monday, June 15th when the last few untiled balcony floors are waterproofed. The window drop in Stack 3 is complete and the balcony drop will also commence on Monday. After sealing some defects on Monday, the Stack 4 shutter removal team will move to Stack 5 next week. Prior to the move, Stacks 5 and 6 will undergo pressure cleaning by mid-week. The contractor has recaptured some of the time lost to inclement weather by working on weekends and holidays (they worked on Memorial Day!) While Playa del Mar personnel report few problems with our residents, they have asked us to remind you that their beach furniture is not to be used or disturbed for any purpose. Regency Tower residents entering the beach through Playa del Mar must walk a few steps to the Regency Tower beach. Those of you renting cabanas or cabana space can use them since they are prepared and erected each day by staff! Under no circumstances is anyone permitted to use Playa del Mar's chairs, umbrella's or lounges located on the beach. If you want any of these appurtenances, please bring your own! Don't forget to thank our wonderful neighbors in Playa del Mar for their ongoing hospitality! More to come...
Stacks 3 and 4
May 30, 2009 - On May 30th, shutter removal begins for Stacks 3 and 4. The contractor will also pressure clean the two stacks in preparation for sealing and priming. All Stack 3 and 4 unit owners must remove items from their balconies and close windows prior to pressure cleaning (the pressure cleaning process simulates a moderate rainfall).
Above all - Stack 3 and 4 unit owners who wish to retain their shutters must verify their operability. They need to be opened and closed TWICE during the painting process. If you are unable to easily open and close your shutters through several cycles, you must enlist the assistance of some vendor with experience in shutter maintenance and have them rehabilitated and returned to full functionality (Click Here for several shutter repair and maintenance vendors). If the contractor encounters non-functional shutters, they will be removed at the owner's expense. Additionally, the costs of any "Change Orders" stemming from shutter-related delays will be borne by the negligent unit owner, not the entire membership.
There are several different painting teams, each charged with certain tasks. One is painting the window drops of Stack 1 while another is completing the defect sealing on Stack 2. A third will begin the Stacks 3 and 4 preparations. Which teams are activated each day depends primarily the weather. We try to squeeze progress out of every clear sky. In order to make up some time lost to inclement weather and shutter problems, the contractor is working on weekends and holidays (weather permitting). One lessee who asked why we couldn't open the beach access on weekends was under the mistaken impression that no work was being done over the weekend. NOT SO! While we are pushing hard to complete the entire job, we are especially concerned about completing the Stacks 1 and 2 areas. Once clear of the those areas, we can effect the pool repairs (which includes installing the new drain cover required by statute) and reopen our pool and beach egress. BY THE WAY - after checking with Playa del Mar, they report almost no problems with our residents, characterizing them as "well-behaved and courteous." PLEASE NOTE: They don't allow children in the pool with diapers unless they are health-department approved swim diapers! We would like to thank those Regency Tower residents who use the Playa facilities for their sterling behavior as well as their patience. We also want to thank our wonderful neighbors in Playa del Mar for their timely hospitality. We won't forget!
SUMMARY: STACKS 3 AND 4 UNIT OWNERS - If you want to keep your shutters, you must see to it that they work! PLEASE - CHECK THEM AND, IF NECESSARY, FIX THEM! (Click Here for several shutter repair and maintenance vendors). PLEASE - take your balcony furniture in. PLEASE - close your windows during the power wash (unless you ordinarily leave them open when it rains). THANK YOU! More to come...
Stack 1 Balconies Complete
May 23, 2009 - We are pleased to announce that the entire east side of the building is finished! The eastern face of Regency Tower is the most environmentally sensitive side of the structure, given its oceanfront location. While we can appreciate the aesthetic improvement that accompanies a fresh coat of paint, the main benefit to this accomplishment derives from plugging the thousands of cracks, holes and defects and waterproofing our home's most vulnerable exposure.
Our promise that this unacceptable confusion would stop precluded the contractor from submitting a "change order" for the additional work. Notices were sent to Unit Owners that they must insure the operability of their shutters if they wanted to retain them. The office also provided members with contact information for companies that repair and maintain these antique shutters. To expedite the project, President Lanzillo and Manager Dott Nicholson-Brown dispatched maintenance personnel to verify shutter viability for shuttered units in the next stack.
The unusually severe winds and intermittent rainfalls continue to delay our timetable. Obviously, the scaffold cannot be used in high winds. The rain presents a different problem. The elasteromeric weatherproofing requires at least 4 hours to functionally dry. During this period, rain or high humidity can undermine the paint's adhesive qualities, requiring a second application. Every morning, if the weather is threatening, we ask the painters to stick around, opining that the sun will pop out soon. If that doesn't work, we shamelessly beg them to wait an hour or two before packing it in. Despite the ominous overcast exhibited at the onset of each day of the past week, the strategy produced 3 and a half productive days. Weather permitting, they also agreed to work on Memorial Day.
Progess continues on the south side. Now that all of the Stack 1 balconies are complete, the focus will turn to the windows. After power washing Stack 2, the contractor removed all of the Stack 2 shutters as requested by unit owners.
STACKS 2 AND 3 UNIT OWNERS: If you want to keep your shutters, you must see to it that they work! Dozens of residents have registered their strong objection to the prospect of being financially penalized because some unit owners didn't check that their shutters are operational. WE AGREE! If your shutters don't open and close as required, not only will they be removed at your expense, any related "change orders" submitted by H & H Painting for extra-contractual delays will be passed to YOU. PLEASE - CHECK THEM AND, IF NECESSARY, FIX THEM! (Click Here for several shutter repair and maintenance vendors). Thank You! More to come...
Frozen Shutters Cause Delays!
May 7, 2009 - "The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men Gang aft agley." When he recycled Robert Burns' apology to a "tim'rous beastie" for destroying its "wee bit housie", John Steinbeck wanted "Of Mice and Men" to reflect how Murphy's Law is a universal constant (Murphy's Law - Whatever CAN go wrong WILL go wrong). By carefully monitoring the project, we are positioned to address problems as they arise in hopes of resolving them before they increase costs or inconvenience. Since the inception of the Regency Tower Paint Project, Murphy has thrown us two unexpected curve balls. The unusually severe seasonal winds were the first unanticipated impediment.
When wind speed exceeds operational safety limits for utilizing the scaffold, work on the main structure is delayed. As per an understanding arrived at during a pre-project meeting, when the painting plan is disrupted by "inclement" weather, the contractor redirects his personnel to perform other tasks that can safely be addressed. When precluded from using the scaffold last week, the contractor instead pressure washed, prepared and patched cracks on the south perimeter wall. When wind-driven safety concerns ground the swing-stage, Contractor Gary Hricko will again redeploy staff to areas such as the north and south deck perimeter walls, the lower driveway walls and the planters. However, once these areas are completed, each day that is additionally lost to high winds will extend the Project by one day - prolonging the inconvenience for everyone.
While we are NOT responsible for delays caused by the weather, we ARE responsible for delays caused by our residents. We are obligated to provide the painter with full access to areas to be painted. When the contractor sustains a financial loss from delays caused by residents' inability to open and close their neglected shutters and provide unobstructed access to the target wall and/or the exterior window frame, he has grounds to pass that loss to the association. Another source of shutter-related delays is threatening to increase project costs. Evidently, the immediacy of witnessing the scaffold pass by their windows has prompted some residents to belatedly request shutter removal. After receiving assurances that these unreasonable requests and project obstacles would not continue, the contractor reset the scaffolding drops and fulfilled the late requests without penalty.
Inasmuch, DO NOT WAIT TO TEST YOUR SHUTTERS! DO IT ASAP! If they don't work - you have two options. You can either contact a shutter servicing company to perform maintenance on the shutters and restore lost functionality OR have them removed. To remove the shutters, call H&H Painting immediately at 954-757-8200! Several local companies that rehabilitate hurricane shutters are:
In addition to expecting a high quality painting and waterproofing result, we are also committed to bringing this project in on budget and on schedule. To avoid risking an inconvenient prolongation of the project, we've asked the contractor to work on Saturdays, thereby recapturing some of the time lost to delays caused by Mother Nature, indecisive residents and uncooperative antique shutters.
Starting Monday, May 11th, stack number 2 will be power washed. Stack 2 residents should start bringing in the balcony furnishings (take in the delicate items over the weekend) and close all windows. Since wind-blown projectiles can still hit anywhere on the pool deck from the scaffold while stack two is prepared and painted, the pool area and beach egress will remain closed until the project moves to stack 3. Regency Tower residents and guests are welcome to use the pool facilities at (and access the beach from) Playa del Mar in the interim. Click Here for details!
Regency Tower Pool and
This is how it works: Regency Tower residents and guests wishing to use the pool or beach will have to walk next door and enter through the Playa del Mar main entrance.
Their rules are very similar to ours. If you plan to use the Playa pool, please remember that we are their guests. Children must be closely supervised at all times. When using the pool after visiting the beach, please see that the kids shower (clean off the sand) before returning to the pool deck. If you are accompanied by teenagers, you will be responsible for their behavior! Our understanding with Playa del Mar is subject to one intransigent rule - if the Playa residents or staff perceives an abuse of their hospitality, it will terminate - for everyone! If anyone in your party has any "special needs", please contact Eric Berkowitz to arrange with the Playa staff to provide for them. Otherwise - HAVE A WONDERFUL TIME!
Many Thanks to our wonderful neighbors in
Regency Tower Paint Project Starts
April 8, 2009 - On Saturday, March 28th, contract negotiations with H & H Painting to paint and waterproof the building were finalized. In addition to the weather, the project start date was subject to several factors. We were awaiting receipt of the completed color selection ballots sent to each unit owner which were due by April 3rd. By the way, those of you that opted for painting the building Jumel Peachtone and Metallic Gold - See Below - won by an impressive two to one plurality. April 10th is the date by which residents were admonished to inform the contractor and/or the office about removing unwanted storm shutters and/or balcony tiles. Unit owners that fail to notify the contractor by the due date risk facing significantly increased costs for these incremental jobs once the project is underway. PROCRASTINATORS - CALL H&H PAINTING TODAY IF INTERESTED (954-757-8200)!
Project Start Date: April 13th
While many of you are aware that Hricko participated in the Regency Tower Hallways renovation (painting the walls) and his experience painting buildings along the Barrier Island (and the Galt Mile in particular) is extensive and well-referenced, Gary's H&H Painting actually painted Regency Tower in the 1980s. His familiarity with the building, inside and out, will help insure that critical details are adequately addressed.
The project will start on the east side of the building, extending around the southeast corner to include the entire Number 1 Stack. The first order of business will be to remove the shutters from those units in the number one stack whose owners made the appropriate pre-construction arrangements with the contractor. After removing the shutters and patching any resulting holes or cracks, H&H will power wash the east side of the building (facing the ocean), continuing around the southeast corner all the way to the upper patio deck, administering a thorough cleaning to the entire number one stack. When asked if stack one unit owners should prepare for the power wash, Hricko likened the effect to a mild to moderate rainfall. Nevertheless, unit owners in the eleven stack should close all windows facing east and stack one unit owners should close all windows - PERIOD.
As such, the time has come for Stack 1 unit owners to START REMOVING BREAKABLES from the balcony. While the contractor can dropcloth balcony elements, it is obviously safer to remove balcony furnishings altogether. Additionally, IF YOUR BALCONY IS UNTILED, the balcony furniture MUST BE REMOVED TO ALLOW THE CONTRACTOR TO COAT THE BALCONY FLOOR WITH WATERPROOF PROTECTION! Also, hurricane shutters must be closed to allow the contractor to patch, prime and paint the area behind hurricane shutters. In their open state, they block that part of the exterior wall adjacent to the windows. Then the shutters must be opened to provide access to the sill and the interior area.
A preliminary preparation plan was created to address the dual concerns of safety and convenience. Areas under the construction site will be coned and taped off to protect our residents. Additionally, landscaping and building elements below the work area will receive protective covering when appropriate (except where doing so actually endangers the plants by creating a heat sink). Although the area below the swing stage at the Number 1 stack must be cordoned off, the plan will still permit use of the southern part of the pool (the deep end) and the southern side of the pool deck. A caution tape delineating the danger area will run from the upper patio deck stairway handrail, span the pool and be affixed to the pool fence adjacent to the beach. Plenty of space will still be available on the pool deck to lounge, sun and have fun.
Notices will be posted before the contractor moves to the next stack. Check back here at your convenience to keep abreast of the project's progress.
Building Paint Colors
To make the process for selecting building colors for the upcoming Paint Project fully inclusive, a letter was sent to every member of the Regency Tower Association containing two computer enhanced pictures of Regency Tower representing the general appearance when painted with each of the two choices. See below to read the letter's specific content and view the two computer generated graphics (click on either graphic for a larger version). There is also a link that allows viewing both graphics simultaneously. Due to serious time constraints impacting successful completion of the project, your choice must be returned ASAP! Thanks!
The Paint Choice Letter
On advice of our attorney, we are polling the entire membership regarding the color choices for the painting of the Regency Tower building. Enclosed are two color choices:
Please indicate your choice and return your decision in the envelope provided no later than April 3, 2009. Due to time constraints regarding the necessity to start the project, the Board has decided that the majority choice returned out of the total responses received will be the designated colors. Ex: If we only receive 50 and the choices are 26 for choice #1 and 24 for choice #2, choice #1 will be the color. So if you want your voice to be heard, be sure to respond by April 3, 2009.
THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Building Paint Color Choices
The two graphics below are computer created projections that approximate how the building will appear when painted with the two available choice combinations.
To see the two larger versionsside by side, Click Here (expand or maximize your window for full size).
Casual review of the issue revealed an overwhelming body of authoritative evidence that these LNG facilities were high-value targets for terrorist strikes. Maritime Security Reports from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Congressional Research Service, Pentagon Studies, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) threat assessments and the White House Counterterrorism Unit join scores of independent studies that lament the vulnerability of these irresponsibly located gas plants. A December 2007 Report to Congress by the GAO (Government Accountability Office) exhorts that “the Coast Guard - the lead federal agency for Maritime Security - has insufficient resources to meet its own self-imposed security standards.”
There is also a body of evidence substantiating that an ignitable vapor cloud can travel up to 30 miles, threatening dozens of local neighborhoods with extinction. In a 1982 Lovins & Lovins Pentagon study entitled “Brittle Power: Energy Strategy for National Security”, Armed Forces Energy Directors in the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are apprised that the ignitable energy content of a typical 125,000 cubic meter LNG tanker is equivalent to seven-tenths of a megaton of TNT, or 55 Hiroshima bombs. The Galt Mile Community Association Advisory Board voted unanimously to oppose this project. Petitions were organized and distributed to every member building. While informing residents about the impending threat, GMCA engaged every local official in an effort to defeat Calypso.
Unfortunately, the White House decided several years ago that the regulatory process for licensing energy facilities needed to be “fast-tracked”. To accomplish this, the public and all local governments - for the first time in history - were excluded from the licensing process for potentially dangerous facilities within their jurisdictions. Even State governments were rendered powerless as the sole power to decide where and how a facility will operate was vested into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), a federal bureaucracy manned by former and current energy industry officials. A quirk in the law governing offshore energy facilities still allows the Governor of the adjacent state to VETO the project. The only human being in the State of Florida with the power to stop this recipe for disaster is Governor Charlie Crist.
Of Course, we need your help. It is important that you understand what's at stake. There are several ways to accomplish this. A significant amount of information is available on the Galt Mile web site, including:
You can also watch a 30-minute video that details the drawbacks of this project. To expedite familiarity with the issues we are being forced to face, several viewings will be arranged for Regency Tower residents in the Games Room or the Meeting Room. This video actually won some industry awards for its demonstrative effectiveness. When these viewings have been scheduled, notification will be posted in the lobby, on the character generator and right here on the Regency Tower web site. Snacks? ... well... we'll see...
One Part Faith, Two Parts Elbow Grease!
March 28, 2008 - We are pleased to announce that Unit 1701, an undervalued apartment acquired by exercising the Association’s “Right of First Refusal”, has been sold for $639,000. Immediately following the March 27th closing, the short term bridge financing that fueled the transaction was fully discharged and the residual profit deposited into the Association’s Money Market Account. We are equally pleased to report that the Board’s two strategic objectives were met. Adding almost $60,000 to the original $580,000 purchase price commensurately increased the value of every unit. As a secondary benefit, realized profit will help pay association expenses, lowering everyone’s assessment.
Eight years ago, the Regency Tower Board of Directors made a commitment to proactively support the value of our homes. Units comparatively undervalued for non-heritable reasons depressed the value of every unit in the building. Exempting non-impactive “intra-family” transactions, the Board decided to investigate the basis for substantial undervaluations when reviewing proposed sales. By exercising our Right of First Refusal to purchase and subsequently sell the undervalued unit for its true worth, the value of every unit in the building was proportionately bolstered. Assessments were abated by plowing profits back into the association’s bottom line.
Over a seven year period, the Board exercised the Right of First Refusal four times, lowering maintenance costs by about $340,000 while propping up unit values. In each case, the Board solicited authoritative input from Real Estate professionals to help realistically measure risk against the prospective benefits. Since assessment funds were never used to promulgate the strategy, short-term bridge rollovers were fully reimbursed at the respective closings, precluding any budgetary loose ends.
As you are doubtless aware, we recently held our annual elections. While we are pleased by the enthusiasm with which several unit owners sought to campaign for their respective candidates, some of the campaign rhetoric tended to blend opinion with facts. Irresponsible claims that the Board strategy resulted in gross financial losses, despite lacking the virtue of being true, had a chilling effect on some mostly newer Regency Tower residents. Ordinarily, the final results of these strategic transactions are released at subsequent Board meetings. However, given the heightened concern raised by these electioneering mischaracterizations, we thought it best to immediately report the divestiture’s lucrative outcome.
We would also like to express our appreciation for the patience and support demonstrated by the vast majority of our Regency Tower family and congratulations on having substantially benefited from another successful mutual effort!
The Regency Tower Board of Directors
Cable Static Blows Over
March 5, 2008 - Regency Tower residents noticed a problem when they tuned into channel 99 in early March. When residents using analog cable boxes or direct-access cable-ready televisions turned on their HBO-2 channel, they heard noisy static instead of the usual audio feed. Some residents called Comcast to report the problem. Unable to diagnose the source of the problem over the telephone, perplexed technical advisors turned the complainants over to customer service. Once transferred to customer service, those hardy individuals willing to endure the narcotizing elevator music were given appointments with repair personnel.
Over the next few days, Comcast maintenance representatives examined various cable configurations in appointees’ apartments. Unable to abate the incessant static, they told disappointed customers that the technical repairs department would be notified. Others guessed at why the analog audio signal was degraded, asserting difficulties with the boxes, the satellite, the meter room master control, the rooftop stack access, etc. In truth, they had no idea why the sound track was disabled.
Residents who spoke with customer service or repair techs repeated what they interpreted as the problem’s underlying rationale. Reminiscent of the children’s game “telephone”, the feedback was altered slightly with each conveyance. One resident (who shall remain anonymous), contended that a satellite crashed into “space junk”. Another woman who spoke at length with a technical representative over the telephone said that she was advised that only a digital box could cure the problem. Several other residents surmised that this was a Comcast ploy, an attempt to force analog customers to purchase an upgrade to digital service. Unfortunately, this rumor had legs and caused unnecessary concern to many residents.
As per our agreement, the association’s emergency Comcast contact was called to address the problem. Within 24 hours, the mysterious static was mitigated... and no one had to buy any special equipment.
This particular supposition arises following almost every Comcast service interruption. In a nutshell, it ain’t so. Late last year, the Cable Committee investigated several bulk service alternatives to the expiring 5-year Comcast agreement. Packages from satellite service providers and other cable vendors were carefully scrutinized. In view of recent legislation clearing the way for cable competition, AT&T issued press releases exclaiming their intention to compete with cable providers across the State. When the Committee called to elicit their participation, AT&T said that they planned to enter the Fort Lauderdale market in a year or two.
Although the package ultimately negotiated with Comcast was clearly the least expensive and most flexible, the Committee determined that if another full service cable provider were to enter the area market, competitive pressure would either lower costs or significantly enhance services. To expedite this anticipated opportunity, the Cable Committee recommended modifying the renewal, proposing that a 3-year contract replace the standard 5-year agreement. Within the next few years, we will be able to take advantage of the new cable environment.
Another issue the Cable Committee addressed was the upcoming nationwide transition to digital service by the cable industry. Every reputable cable provider warned about the additional cost attached to this changeover. The Committee insisted that residents satisfied with the existing service be shielded from paying the additional expenses projected for the new digital services. Comcast and the Committee reviewed several methodologies for implementing a combination of existing analog service and new digital service in Regency Tower. After negotiating for several months, an accord was struck. Comcast agreed to send both signals to our association, obviating the need to purchase any digital equipment unless digital services were specifically requested by the unit owner.
These are included in the terms of our understanding with Comcast. If you are satisfied with up to two analog cable boxes or cable-ready analog access, two HBO channels (HBO 1 on channel 96 and HBO 2 on channel 99) and access to the House Channel, you will not have to purchase ANYTHING to receive this standard cable lineup. If any signal interference impacts your receipt of these services, it must be fixed without your having to purchase special equipment. However, if you want High Definition television (HDTV), certain incremental channel packages, On Demand free services or expanded access to pay-per-view features, you will need a digital decoder box from Comcast at an additional cost.
Comcast Fixes Cable Flaws
December 23, 2007 - In mid-December, Regency Tower residents planning to watch a movie turned on the set, tuned to channel 96 or 99 and wondered what they did wrong as they stared at the gritty black screen. Viewers automatically went into their secret magic repair mode. For most of us, that means banging on the TV while gently cajoling or hurling invective. For some, that means some variation of “rebooting” the device – turning the set off and then on again. Some wait for exactly 3 or 5 minutes between boots. Others unplug the set, or the box, or the VCR, or the DVD, or the lamp next to the set... and plug it in again before engaging in their boot routine. Short prayers randomly accompany this ritual. Hardcore “booters” wait overnight before turning the set back on.
Invariably, after noticing that every other channel performed exactly as expected, a reach for the phone was in order. Calls went out to friends, the security desk, the office, some board member or the unfortunate volunteers on the cable committee. “Have you watched TV today,” or “Is your TV working,” or “Is Comcast doing work in the building,” or “Do we still have HBO in the new contract?”
Next - the call to Comcast. Since calling Comcast in the past has yielded a spectrum of harrowing experiences for some residents, it occasionally provokes acute nervous disorder, not unlike the chill elicited from calling your dentist. After anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour of addressing from one to five people, an answer ensued. Actually, about five different answers. “You aren’t entitled to HBO,” or “You need to rent a digital box,” or “We are doing work in the area,” or “We’ll send someone to check your cable connection,” or “Was the bill paid?”
It became clear that customer service was clueless. Some of the self-appointed detectives in the building advanced their own theories. “They are trying to force us to buy digital boxes!” Another hypothesis assumed that Comcast was fast forwarding their federally mandated obligation to digitize their signal. They are supposed to do this in January of 2009. Some residents, upon calling Comcast, were given appointments to check their individual service or install a new box.
The Cable Committee contacted the association’s bulk services representative. Within an hour, she discredited the myriad theories forwarded by their own customer service department. Comcast uses special software to control the signal it sends to customers. They send any software updates directly to every customer’s individual line. Evidently, the signal sent to the dedicated filter boxes used in bulk accounts accidentally disabled their targets. Regency Tower has three such boxes located in the meter room at the garage level. They control the 2 HBO channels that non-digital customers use to watch channel 96 and channel 99 (HBO 1 and HBO 2) and the House channel. Since the House channel signal initiates from the camera in the lobby and the character generator, it was unaffected. However, the 2 HBO filter boxes responsible for translating digital to analog stopped passing the signal through. Unit owners with digital boxes were unaffected by the glitch. Comcast sent a technician to “reboot” the boxes which thereafter functioned properly.
While we were discussing the problem with the technical representative, we also asked why the reception for several residents was hampered by a phenomenon called “snow”. This annoying disturbance appears as scrolling cracked horizontal lines or like snow falling on the screen. An investigation revealed that the main Comcast electrical feed to the building was eroded. On Thursday, December 20th, Comcast technicians installed a floating scaffold at the northwest corner of the building to repair the problem. The signal was interrupted for a half-hour the next morning in order to install a temporary line that permitted continuous viewing while the main feed was removed and replaced. The signal was interrupted again while the service was switched back from the temporary line to the newly installed main feed.
Two of the residents that complained about the signal interference confirmed that it is no longer a problem. As the Board does with all contractual obligations, we will continue to monitor cable service to ensure compliance.
Regency Tower Sees the Light!
Among the construction fields most heavily affected by the runaway demand were window installers, roofing contractors, fence and railing contractors, and lighting (electrical) contractors. When blisters were discovered on our newly installed roof in 2001, responsibility for a total resurfacing fell to the contractor. However, an investigation done by our engineer proved that the manufacturer’s roofing system suffered from an inherent defect. Roofing contractor Campany Roofing was understandably grateful upon learning that manufacturer Honeywell was contractually bound by its warranty to pay for the reinstallation. By leveraging that gratitude, we were able to substantially lower repair costs to our storm-damaged roof.
Instead of replacing damaged video security components, the Association took advantage of new industry technology and replaced the whole system at a cost comparable to the repair estimates. Unlike the former system, the new equipment is able to incorporate new “web-based” technologies as they become available, further lowering costs.
In contrast, electrical contractors across the state were monopolized by municipalities, county governments, school systems and large commercial developers to repair and/or replace their critical lighting systems. Much less lucrative small jobs would have to wait for a year or more if they weren’t willing to bid competitively against others with much “deeper pockets”. The Construction Committee closely scrutinized the local and statewide pressure on lighting contractors for related repairs since the storm, awaiting an expected market loosening as contractors finally caught up with demand. At the end of 2006, we learned that the market was experiencing such an adjustment.
Our high-intensity deck lamps were initially installed during the 2002 deck and garage waterproofing and rehabilitation project. Erected on pedestals built to protect the lamps from vehicular impacts, the poles and fixtures carried a one-year warranty. When our engineer learned about a subsequent manufacturing defect in the tenons connecting the fixtures to the poles, we exercised the warranty and reinstalled new poles connected directly to the fixtures – at no cost to the association. After successfully weathering Hurricanes Katrina and Jeanne, three of the fixtures were torn from the poles during Hurricane Wilma in October 2005. Despite having passed the expiration date and the “Act of God” exclusion to standard construction warranties, we demanded that the contractor replace the decapitated fixtures and repair the damaged ones, contending a failure in their wind resistance capabilities. Unfortunately, obvious dents and impact scars on the damaged fixtures and poles proved that the failure was due to impacts from roofing material, metal and fiberglass water tower sections, loose windows, shutters, etc eviscerated during the storm. Damage related to such impacts is never covered.
In January, 2007, the Board authorized investigating repairs to our deck lighting. Several contractors recommended completely replacing the entire lighting system for nearly $70 thousand. Our engineer informed us that if we made critical changes to the basic system, a new lighting plan would be required for $thousands in additional engineering and permitting costs. Alternatively, he said that we could realize a significant savings by instead implementing a combination of repairs and unit replacements. With one exception, we decided to pursue that strategy. Construction committee member Ron Lenzi recommended replacing any damaged fiberglass poles with code comparable aluminum ones that were the same size. While sacrificing some flexibility, they would provide better support for the fixture. The poles would be coated to match the fixtures and the other poles.
We invited Mills Electric Service, Main-guy Electrical Company, C.W. Fischer Electric, D.V. Electric, JAM Lighting Distributors and Wesworth Electric to participate in a two-stage competition. Following our engineer’s advice, each would submit their opinion about how to best address the lighting damage and when the recommendations were compiled into a scope of work, submit a financial proposal.
Fortunately, we stored three fixtures in the garage that were decapitated by Wilma’s flying debris. The electrical contractors agreed with our engineer that three of the eight non-functional (or missing) fixtures could be repaired. Since Mills Electric was the first to present a compliant comprehensive package, we authorized them to repair the three salvageable fixtures. Cannibalizing the damaged fixtures held in storage provided the parts needed to repair two of the three lamps, cutting parts costs by two-thirds.
With seven of our twelve deck lamps working, we collected the various contractor repair strategies. Three plans were remarkably similar, replacing five damaged poles and five lamps. Two other proposals that endorsed repairing various combinations of poles and lamps, while less expensive and legal, would have left us non-compliant and therefore ineligible for any warranty. One bid was never completed. In late May, the fully compliant strategies proposed by Mills Electric and Fischer Electric were recommended by the construction committee to the Board, who selected Fischer Electric’s $17,900 bid instead of the $21,950 bid submitted by Mills Electric.
Although the order was placed in June after the contract was signed, by mid-July, Fischer hadn’t yet installed the new equipment. When Chuck Fischer apologized for the delay, claiming that the lighting distributor was “dragging his feet”, we requested proof that he was not, in fact, responsible. He faxed us 2 notifications from the distributor declaring that the poles weren’t ready.
Simultaneously, the City of Fort Lauderdale issued notices to every beachfront condominium that they were in violation of the turtle-safe lighting ordinance. The Galt Mile Association negotiated an arrangement whereby every Association would satisfy the notice by addressing the most egregious instances of their lighting violation. Following a meeting with the Code compliance officer assigned to the turtle-safe lighting issue, we included the installation of shields on the easternmost North and South Deck fixtures to block the light from direct beach visibility. To avoid any aesthetic incongruity, we asked Fischer to contact manufacturer Lithonia Lighting and order factory installed shields for the 2 affected deck lamps.
The balance of the equipment was finally received in August and installed over a two-day period. To minimize inconvenience to residents, the North Deck was partially closed for 4 hours on day one and the South deck was partially closed for five hours the following day. The new fixtures work perfectly and the new - stronger - Aluminum poles are virtually indistinguishable from the existing ones. While we agree that the new aluminum poles are preferable to their fiberglass predecessors, we declined replacing the undamaged older poles at a comparable additional expense. Instead, any changeover would be made by attrition. If future storms compromise any of the remaining poles, they too would be replaced with aluminum counterparts.
We sidestepped another potential construction land mine, addressing our needs for a fraction of the original post-storm estimates. With the deck lighting returned to full functionality, Regency Tower is the only association on the block to have fully recovered from the storm without levying a special assessment dedicated to hurricane damage. As expressed by a historically well-respected lighting authority, “The light is good. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” (Gen 1:4 - 1:5) According to the city’s Code Compliance officer, even the turtles agree!
Garage Door Gaffe
President Dott Nicholson-Brown coordinated the effort. Security Supervisor Carlos Pereira immediately arranged for additional overnight coverage during the initial stages of the dilemma. Eric Berkowitz contacted garage door vendor EDL - GateMasters to repair the downed door. Maintenance Supervisor John Sala erected an interim barrier to temporarily secure the garage. A cursory investigatiion into the ramifications of either fixing or replacing the structure was performed. According to several vendors contacted by telephone, ordering a new replacement garage door purported to be an expensive proposition that would take at least several weeks to build and install. Conversely, they opined that repairing the door would substantially shorten the security problem and lessen the inconvenience suffered by residents using the garage. Since the break at the welds were relatively clean, fixing the door would also save a good deal of money.
GateMasters evaluated the problem the next day, recommending that the door be transported to the shop for the required repairs. After diagnosing the reason for the damage, they determined that as the door opens and closes, wind pressure tends to rattle the large ribbed metal expanse and place undue strain on the welds. To avoid a repeat incident, several inexpensive adjustments were recommended for the repair and quickly approved.
While the door was in the shop, the stabilizer received additional bracing at every corner. To limit the vibration responsible for the problem, a center yoke was installed on the ceiling in the middle of the 24-foot door expanse. In addition to new v-track and new chain, special stabilizer wheels were installed under the gate.
After installing the gate, the EDL service manager alerted us to a problem with the gate motor. After examining the motor and observing its operational functionality, he explained that the 15-year old motor is on its last legs. He pointed out that the gate, after opening, behaves erratically - taking from 20 to 90 seconds to close. Although he indicated that it doesn’t require immediate attention, we should consider replacing the motor in the near future. He estimated replacement cost at about $200.
In less than a week, the door was returned to full functionality. The improvements designed to mitigate any threat of a recurrence should also substantially extend its useful life. Thanks to the quick actions taken by the Regency Tower team, we experienced no security lapse, the door was up in record time and we saved a bundle.
Beating Back the Wolf
May 30, 2007 - Every Association in the State of Florida is under the fiscal gun. Unit owners are trapped in a whirlwind of unexpected expenses deriving from surprise hurricane damage, ensuing windstorm premium hikes, storm mitigation construction, skyrocketing property taxes and keeping our home structurally sound in an abusive construction environment. Now, more than ever, every dollar assumes special significance.
To cushion residents from the budgetary bath suffered by most of our neighbors, the Regency Tower Board has committed to finding resources in areas generally neglected or overlooked by other Galt Mile Associations. Negotiating good deals and squeezing value out of construction and maintenance projects has long been one of our strengths. However, if we hope to continue effectively moderating costs, this will only get us halfway there.
Skyrocketing insurance expenses are central to many of our financial woes. As such, the Association pushed any and all available buttons to help stem some of that painful outflow. When QBE initially investigated our qualifications for private insurance, they not only verified our newly installed structural mitigations, they closely scrutinized our maintenance program, administrative oversight, fire safety system, and security arrangments. Eligibility for coverage was contingent on demonstrating that these systems also exceeded their standards for new buildings. A thorough vetting of our operational mechanics earned Regency Tower the only unconditional policy renewal in the Galt Mile neighborhood from private carrier QBE.
The high marks we received for creating a secure environment coupled with full compliance with current hurricane mitigation code requirements (unique in the Galt Mile neighborhood), qualified Regency Tower for a credit applicable toward future property insurance costs. Regency Tower is the only Association eligible for this credit - because YOU installed impact windows!
He tenaciously pursued a suspected overcharge in our 2005, 2006 and 2007 workers compensation insurance. At the end of the day, his relentless persistence prompted an admission by the carrier that his argument was meritorious.
HBO-1 Moves from Channel 98 to Channel 96
Balcony Railings Rehabilitation Project
As the work progressed, several glitches were encountered and overcome. An ongoing review of the completed stacks has revealed results that far exceeded our expectations. Although our original five-year warranty expired two years ago, the rehabilitated railings appear brand new. While we are not entitled to an extension of any warranty since we are not paying for the renovation, the coating should extend the projected life of the railings for another 4 to 5 years before requiring additional attention. Not too shabby!
PLEASE NOTE: Remove Balcony Furniture to Prevent Paint Stains! Announcements will be made 2 - 3 days before commencing work on each stack. If you expect to not be here when work on your stack commences, REMOVE THE FURNITURE FROM YOUR BALCONY BEFORE YOU LEAVE!
Legend: Completed - In Progress - Yet to be Done
Balcony Railings Rehabilitation Wrap Up
February 2, 2007 - On Friday, January 26, 2007, the rehabilitation of balcony railings on Stack 11 (the final stack) was completed. The following Monday, January 29th, five glitches about which owners previously notified the office were attended to. Two units for which owners reported “missed spots”, 501 and 707, were addressed. Since units 2003 and 706 recently replaced sections of railing blown out by Hurricane Wilma, rehabilitation of their remaining balcony railing was postponed until after the missing sections were installed, insuring a consistent appearance throughout. The east side of the balcony railing in unit 1010 was so badly deteriorated, instead of repairing only the areas showing exposures, the contractor prepped and recoated the entire section. Since the contractor addressed prior problems as they were reported to the office during the course of the project, following these five repairs, the project was concluded.
That’s it! They are gone! No more noise from the balcony railing coating repairs! During the course of the 10 month project, each and every balcony railing was meticulously prepped, primed and painted. Although it took almost seven years, we finally received what was originally contracted for those many years ago - properly coated balcony railings.
FYI: If you notice any problems in the future, you will have to settle for heartfelt expressions of sympathy. The warranty covering these balcony railings expired about two years ago. The company with which the original contract was made no longer exists. Additionally, the warranty in that contract only obligated the vendor to repair those areas clearly demonstrating a defect. The rehabilitation we benefitted from cost us NOTHING and far exceeded the warranted response, even when it was in effect two years ago! Inasmuch, any scratches, scrapes, marks, blisters, bubbles and exposures found in the future will have to be repaired the “old fashioned” way - with a scraper, a can of glossy white enamel acrylic spray paint and some elbow grease!
The fences are going up. Fence and Railing Depot, having undergone “reorganization”, has committed to completing the rehabilitation of perimeter and interior fences on the Regency Tower premises. In accord with a recently updated installation plan, the fence separating the South Parking Deck from the Upper Patio Deck has already been erected. Unlike some of its previous incarnations, this security fence has been meticulously constructed and enjoys certain marked improvements. As is apparent upon scrutiny, the new fence is level across the entire span. Even the fence segment that sits on our common perimeter wall with Galt Ocean Club has been appropriately height-adjusted to the security fence.
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How Regency Tower Weathered the Storm
Hurricane Wilma posted gust speeds up to 170 MPH during the several days it rested off the Mexican coast in preparation for turning northeast to assault the Florida peninsula. After witnessing the nail biting Category 3 devastation with which Wilma slammed the west coast on October 23rd and following its progress across the State, Regency Tower residents closed their eyes and held their breath as the strongest Atlantic hurricane to date pounced early on October 24th. The only positive aspect of the storm was the fact that it was motoring through Florida at 30 MPH, portending a minimum of flooding. This fooled millions of South Florida residents into believing that Wilma would be a five or six hour Monday morning annoyance. Instead, Wilma proved to be the greatest catastrophe to ever hit Broward County.
By Wednesday morning, several Associations on the northern end of the block (Galt Towers, L'Ambiance, Galleon, Ocean Club, Ocean Summit, etc.) regained electricity and some also had water. The Regency Tower Board contacted Vice Mayor Christine Teel, alerting her to a possible health crisis adjunctive to prolonged lack of water.
Along with some of the information presented above, an article on the Galt Mile Community Association web site has a more comprehensive overview of what happened to the Galt Mile neighborhood and the rest of Broward County. Click Here to check it out!
We now have two vending machines located behind the Garage Security Area. One offers drinks (50¢) and the other offers snacks (50¢ - 65¢). Pennies, Foreign Coins or Wet / Torn dollar bills will not work!
Impact Windows October Update
Code Information & Nomenclature
The code for impact rated windows in the State of Florida was compiled after Hurricane Andrew wrought havoc across the State in 1992. It has been refined and updated as additional information about the effects of hurricanes on new construction techniques and products has become available. Adopted by jurisdictions around the world with heightened exposure to hurricane damage, the Miami Protocols are the nation's toughest and most comprehensive compendium of protective guidelines for the installation and structural integrity of storm damage resistant products. According to the Florida Division of Emergency Management, “The most important precaution you can take to reduce damage to your home and property is to protect the areas where wind can enter. According to recent wind technology research, it’s important to strengthen the exterior of your house so wind and debris do not tear large openings in it. You can do this by protecting and reinforcing these five critical areas: ROOF | STRAPS | WINDOWS | DOORS | GARAGE DOORS”
No Association has disseminated more information about hurricane resistant window products than Regency Tower. Our newsletter and web site, which addressed most of the questions asked by residents during the group installations, are also used by many of our neighbors as information resources. Emails sent to the web site asking for information were responded to expeditiously. Board members personally responded to dozens of questions by residents. Additionally, information was also available through the Galt Mile News and the Galt Mile Community Association web site. Topics discussed on the web site were peppered with links to their sources. Articles in the Galt newsletter end with a recommendation to access the web site for additional information. Information about the topics discussed in this brief is readily available on the internet. Residents have also had access to their installers to address more technical questions. Despite several attempts by a few admittedly confused individuals to mischaracterize facts about the installations, Regency Tower residents remain the most well-informed on the Galt Mile about impact rated windows.
Notice: Do not put furniture back OR your PERMIT away until after the City inspects your Hurricane Windows.
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