"It's been like a circus over here," said Justin Miller, 22, a resident of Building 1125 at the Berkeley Flats apartment complex near 11th and Indiana Streets. "They tell us one thing, and then they told us another. ... It's pretty crappy if it's been nonlivable, and I've been staying here all this time."
The force of the winds during Sunday morning's storm lifted the building's roof momentarily, allowing the cinder-block support piers along the west face of the building to either partially collapse or to tilt inward, said Tim Pinnick, inspections supervisor for the city's neighborhood resources department.
The complex's management never reported the damage to the city, Pinnick said. Instead, the company vacated the six apartments on the corner of the building where the damage was most severe and used a private maintenance company and an engineer to begin shoring up the building, he said.
Meanwhile, residents of the other apartments in the building were told Sunday evening that they could move in again. It wasn't until Tuesday, after a resident called the city to complain, that the codes office became aware of the damage at the building and went to inspect it.
"We were late in becoming involved," Pinnick said.
Pinnick said that after speaking to the complex's management Tuesday, he had the impression that the entire building was being vacated. But an apartment manager who answered the phone Wednesday said the rest of the building was safe and that residents would be allowed to stay - something Pinnick said he didn't know until being informed by a reporter.
By day's end, the city had ordered the rest of the building vacated, pending completion of an engineering report.
"We don't have the whole picture. We know that there are safety concerns there. We know that the fire and emergency response people will not enter the building," Pinnick said. "We're not going to take a chance, so we want the building vacated, and once we receive a building permit application that includes the engineer's report and necessary repairs, then we can make a decision about partial occupancy."
The apartment manager who answered the phone Wednesday referred questions to Nolan Real Estate Services in Kansas City, which did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Pinnick said that as of Wednesday, his staff had documented 50 buildings in the city with significant damage but that the damage at Berkeley Flats was the "most concentrated, most severe." Pinnick said building inspectors spent Sunday and Monday going through the city trying to determine where the damage from the storm was the worst.
"If you really look at the damage, it's mainly roof damage and falling-tree situations," he said. "We don't have, fortunately, more than one of those Berkeley Flats situations."
He said his staff would eventually compare its inventory of damaged buildings with a list of building permits submitted to the office - a way of ensuring that the places with the worst damage were being properly repaired. But he said the situation at Berkeley Flats shows that the city also relies on residents to report potentially unsafe buildings.
"We need that help because of the limited staff we have and such a vast area" affected by the storm, he said.
Residents can report a potentially unsafe building by calling the city at 832-7700.
March 12, 2006, Storm
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