Galvano plans to consult Florida surgeon general on Willowbrook issues

skennedy@bradenton.comFebruary 1, 2013 

EAST MANATEE -- State Sen. Bill Galvano said he would consult Florida's surgeon general about health and safety issues he saw Friday at the Willowbrook development.

Galvano, R-Bradenton, noted after a tour of the 272-unit complex that people were "living in conditions that, at least to my lay eyes, do not seem safe."

"Health and safety is a big issue," he said. "If, at the end of the day, something went wrong, that's the worst of it."

The complex in eastern Manatee County, built by KB Home, has been plagued with serious construction deficiencies.

Some homes are under repair, but the inhabitants complained plywood sheeting and 2-by-4s blocking windows and doors would hinder their escape in the event of fire.

"Our biggest thing is safety on the third floor," Michael Urbaniak, of the 8800 block of White Sage Loop, told Galvano. "In a garage fire, I don't think anybody is getting out."

Other residents complained about noise and debris during the day in their homes.

Ashley Delph, of the 7300 block of Black Walnut Way, said her whole balcony was black with mold due to water intrusion. She asked to be moved while it was fixed, but was turned down, she told Galvano.

"It's not acceptable," she said.

A statement from KB Home spokeswoman Cathy Teague said: "While the restoration work under way at Willowbrook is taking longer than anyone would like, we believe that the third-partyengineers and inspectors working independently on behalf of our homeowners are going to great lengths

to supervise, evaluate and inspect the work to verify it is per plan and specifications."

"KB Home's role in this extensive process is to be kept apprised of the work and pay the bills," she wrote in an e-mail message.

She added: "True to the word provided to Manatee County Commissioners last fall, KB Home has already voluntarily helped some homeowners temporarily relocate from a building under restoration at Willowbrook. Additionally, earlier this week, we personally visited with homeowners in Building 13, where scaffolding is present in the front and rear entries, and extended an offer to temporarily relocate their families until they have free access to their homes."

Galvano planned to meet with George Glance, president of KB Home's Central Florida operations, and plans to contact Florida's Surgeon General John H. Armstrong.

Galvano also has requested information from the state Department of Business & Professional Regulation, he said.

The department investigated and found violations, but has declined to release its findings. When The Herald asked again Friday for the report, it got the same response as last time:

"Under Chapter 455, the Department may not confirm or deny whether any complaints or investigations exist against a licensed entity until 10 days after probable cause has been determined," wrote Sandi Copes Poreda, the department's director of communications. "I have checked and I'm afraid I do not have any public records responsive to your request."

The Willowbrook Condo Association, which owns all property outside the drywall, signed an agreement with KB Home to hire a third-party contractor to make repairs. KB Home has deposited $2 million in an escrow account that will not go below $500,000, company officials have said.

And finally, debris found in wetlands adjacent to the complex was not construction debris, Teague wrote, adding that repair crews use trash cans.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.

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