Many worried about building safety in Little Rock after Florida building collapse

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark – Thousands in Miami, Florida remain in disbelief after a part of a building collapsed, prompting questions about the safety of the building. 

In Little Rock, the conversation is sparking about the safety of the city’s buildings and if residents could see something similar happen here. 

Simmons Tower was constructed in 1983 and remains the tallest building in Arkansas. 

John Flake was one of the developers on the project back in the 80s and said safety started with the construction of the 40-story building. 

“We built on the 8th floor where it will withstand 150 pounds live load per foot, most buildings are typically 50 pounds per foot,” Flake said. 

Flake said his team worked hard to make sure the structure of the building would not fall or crack but put an emphasis on routine check-ups throughout the years. 

Flake said he has a team of engineers in the building that conduct those check-ups weekly. He said he has a team of diligent workers to make sure the building stays up to code, but some are not so lucky.

“[Building owners] can do pretty much whatever they want,” Kyle Miller, who is a building inspector in Little Rock, said. 

Miller has been inspecting buildings for about 25 years and said because routine check-ups are left up to building owners, many problems fall through the cracks. 

“We don’t fix things until it’s broken,” Miller said. 

Miller said most of the time owners don’t want to pay the extra money to fix minor problems. He warned if left untreated those minor problems could turn into something bigger. 

“If they allow repairs to be done on the building and make allowances for it, that neglect will go away,” Miller said. 

Miller suggested buildings get a routine inspection every year but reiterated it’s up to the building owner in the end. 

FOX16 reached out to the City of Little Rock who said it gives the final stamp of approval on a building before its opening. 

In a statement from the Planning and Development Director Jamie Collins wrote: 

“The building official (or their designated representative) inspects all buildings that have applied for a building permit. At the time of application, the scope of the inspection is determined by the limits of the application and or modifications/alterations. Any alterations or modifications shall be made per the latest adopted codes. Once all construction is completed, a final inspection is done. After the building official inspects the building or structure and finds no violations, the building official shall issue a certificate of occupancy.” 

Planning and Development Director Jamie Collins

It was unclear if routine check-ups are conducted by the City. Those, according to Miller, will likely only happen when a building changes ownership. 

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