A medical imaging company has removed a portable MRI machine housed in a trailer in a Kendall office strip center, after Miami-Dade County officials determined that the machine and the adjoining building contained unpermitted and potentially dangerous electrical installations, and that the location wasn’t zoned for the machine.
The machine – which had been in operation for nine years – was removed from its location in a semi-trailer at Virtual Imaging on July 21. The trailer was parked under a blue canopy beside a Virtual Imaging center at 7101 SW 99th Ave. The same company owns several similar imaging centers throughout the county.
The indoor imaging center in Kendall remains operational while the owners work to bring them into compliance with building regulations.
Charles Danger, the building official of Miami-Dade County, said that Virtual Imaging had not been complying with any orders given to them – even after a meeting was held in May and a representative of the company said they would be fixing the electrical problems “very soon.” Finally, on July 11, the county sent Virtual Imaging a notice stating that the power of the entire facility, including the portable MRI, would be disconnected by FPL in five business days.
“They were begging for more time and we told them no,” he said. “So they have five working days to come in and try to submit what they need to submit for us to be able to work with them because I think they have gone a little too long.”
The county’s notice to Virtual Imaging stated that the property was determined to be a “hazard to life safety.”
“We are concerned because this is not just a light and a switch,” Danger said. “This is major equipment.”
During the five-day grace period, Juan Puig, the president of Virtual Imaging, entered into an agreement with the building department, which averted the order to disconnect power to the location.
The agreement, signed July 22, mandated that Virtual Imaging get rid of the portable MRI machine and obtain all permits necessary in order to legalize the inside of the facility and parking lot area. The facility was also mandated to pay all outstanding tickets and provide a certification letter that all electrical work is performed legally.
According to the settlement, Puig must have all plans for legalization of unpermitted work and all required permits obtained by Oct. 15. He has until Jan. 13 to finalize all work and inspections.
Danger said the building department became involved in 2011 after a complaint was made by a neighbor. The trailer was placed on the edge of the office strip, where it abuts a residential neighborhood.
But when an inspector was sent to review Virtual Imaging, he “didn’t mention the MRI machine on the outside, although in the pictures that he took you can see on the corner of the building, the MRI machine.”
“The inspector that went in 2011 just went over there, looked over the building, didn’t see anything, and he just moved on,” Danger said. “He didn’t do his job and then the neighbor called again.”
After that incident, the department went back for another inspection and cited the MRI machine, issued violations, and was able to get inside the building. Danger said what Virtual Imaging was doing was “not acceptable.”
Although the portable MRI machine was operating illegally and not allowed to be parked at the facility due to zoning regulations, the building department said, Virtual Imaging could have tried to legalize the use of the trailer through a zoning hearing – but approval from the neighbor who made the complaint would have been required and the unsafe electrical installations would have had to be corrected. Danger said getting this approved would’ve been “very difficult.”
Virtual Imaging paid $1,000 for the cost of preparing the agreement and paid six citations, each costing $510. The building department also said Virtual Imaging agreed to pay a lien of about $8,000 once compliance has been met, and will be paying for the building permits needed, which could cost up to a few thousand dollars.
Puig was not available for comment, but a representative of Virtual Imaging said that the company’s troubles with the county began after a neighbor, Armando Soler, got upset when plans Puig and Soler had made to buy his residence didn’t go as intended.
Soler’s residence is next to Virtual Imaging and Puig had thought of purchasing the residence to eventually expand his company. The representative, who identified himself only as “Mr. González,” said that Soler wanted more money than the appraisal came back for and Soler wasn’t interested in any of Puig’s other offers.
Though Soler had talked to Puig about selling his residence to him, he said his complaint to the county had nothing to do with the deal being called off. He said he complained because of a loud “humming sound” emanating from the trailer.
Soler, who has lived in the residence since 1980 and is retired, said the MRI trailer was never shut off, not even during nights or weekends. The noise was affecting his quality of life and disturbing his peace.
“I had no idea any of these other violations were going to surface,” Soler said.
Danger said he was sorry the county hadn’t addressed the safety issues sooner.
“Something like this should have not taken place since 2011,” Danger said. “And, I can give you a bunch of excuses. We are overloaded here. We get 66,000 calls a year of complaints and only have 50 officers, but I’m not going to give you an excuse. We should have done it before, and we didn’t. But at least we’re doing it now.”