County will pay up to $5 million for Arsht Center repairs

With talk of pinpointing blame and seeking restitution, Miami-Dade County Commissioners on Tuesday said the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts will get up to $5 million for water damage repairs.

That money will also cover the bill for a forensic engineer to investigate the cause of the broken storm pipe that failed during a May thunderstorm — and alert the county if someone owes them money due to faulty materials or work.

“That forensic engineer is going to look at the entire scope of the project, the damaged area, what occurred, and will provide us necessary support should we end up in a position where we’re engaged in a claim against manufacturers or contractors,” said Lester Sola, the county’s internal services director, at a commission meeting.The money will reimburse the Performing Arts Center Trust, which operates the county-owned facility. Miami-Dade pays the trust $7.65 million annually to cover operations at the center, and expects some of the money for repairs to come from that subsidy as well as other tax-collection funds.Nearly 2,500 attendees were evacuated from a performance of The Lion King on May 20 as water fell from ceilings and light fixtures inside the Ziff Ballet Opera House. The facility suffered significant damage.

The county has said that the cost for work that is underway or has already been completed is estimated at $2.1 million. The cost for the remaining reconstruction work is not known, but the county’s insurance deductible for the facility is $5 million.

Some commissioners questioned why the work was not under still warranty on the $470 million building, which opened in 2006.

Sola said warranties had expired.

The vote to authorize the money was 8-2, with Commission Chairman Joe Martinez and Commissioner Bruno Barreiro casting the no votes. Commissioners Audrey Edmonson, Xavier Suarez and José “Pepe” Diaz were absent for the vote.

Commissioners agreed that the money needed to be released quickly so the repairs could be completed before the center’s next season starts in October. But many sounded unhappy about pouring more money into an already expensive building.

“Let’s move with this,” said Commissioner Javier Souto. “But I want to see that we do a good job and we take care of all the details so we won’t have a problem like that in the future.”

© 2012 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.