Recession delays fire station project

147874 articles in the archive and more added every day

Recession delays fire station project

By HALLIE D. MARTIN hmartin@beaufortgazette.com 843-986-5559
Published Monday, February 9, 2009 in The Beaufort Gazette  |  477 Words  |  local_news

Beaufort has another causality from the recession: The $2.5 million renovation and expansion of the fire station on Ribaut Road will be delayed.
"It's a matter of conserving cash," said Bob Pinkerton, the Beaufort Redevelopment Commission chairman.
The commission unanimously voted Thursday to suspend the bids and put construction on hold until further
notice.
Delaying construction raised legal questions about contractual commitments because the money for the projects came from bonds, cash reserves and tax-increment finance district funds, which is tax money collected for redeveloping specific areas. The city is required to pay back the bond money.
"We looked at each situation's costs, and said the most important thing for the city is cash in the bank," said Mayor Billy Keyserling. "It's time to wait."
The construction delays will not affect fire services, said Andrew Byrne, Beaufort Fire Department
spokesman.
The city budgeted $2.5 million for the fire station from $23 million in cash, bonds and tax increment financing district funds. The money also is set aside for the law enforcement center and the City Hall being built at the intersection of Boundary Street and Ribaut Road.
The Redevelopment Commission opened bidding for the fire station construction Jan. 22. The lowest bidder was Leopardo Construction from Mt. Pleasant, which offered $2.4 million.
The commission then instructed the lowest bidders to re-evaluate the cost of the fire station project. The construction companies presented on Thursday the parts of the project that could be deleted to cut costs,
Pinkerton said.
After more than an hour in closed session, the Redevelopment Commission, which oversees City of Beaufort construction projects and is composed of four citizens and the City Council, decided to suspend the bids.
The companies "made a good faith effort," Pinkerton said. "We'll go back and reconsider when the time is right."
The question of delaying the construction was raised by Councilman Gary Fordham at the City Council meeting Jan. 27. He said the bids were too high and wanted to delay construction because of the worsening economy.
"The recession has hit everybody," he said. "I think we can lower (the bid), and quite frankly, see what's going to happen a year from now and see if the bids can be lower."
Bill Harvey, the city attorney, briefed both the City Council in a closed session Tuesday, and the Redevelopment Commission in a separate closed session Thursday.
After discussing options, Harvey said that the council and the commission would not be violating any contracts with the bonds or any other contracts, Keyserling said.
The municipal center is scheduled to be completed in the spring, and the new City Hall is scheduled to be completed in the fall. Those two buildings will be finished on budget, at a cost of about
$20.5 million, city officials say.