Some last-minute cost-cutting and redesigning will delay completion of the Burgess fire station by about a month, but local officials say the snags have been resolved and construction is in full swing.
“We poured concrete the other day for the foundation and we put up steel yesterday,” said Al Hitchcock, chairman of the Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire District board. “We’re moving ahead on it. We had a few little glitches.”
The primary challenge was a financial one. The district had budgeted $1.2 million for the 4,100-square-foot station and the lowest bid came in at $1.3 million.
To shave off $100,000, district officials opted to go with traditional shingles instead a metal roof, reduced the size of the station’s porch from 24 feet to 12 feet and made some other small modifications.
We’re moving ahead on it. We had a few little glitches.
Al Hitchcock, chairman, Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire District
“The new plans came close to matching the old plans,” Hitchcock said. “What we did was what they call value engineering.”
Those changes had to be approved by Horry County building department officials, and that slowed down the process, too. Fire district officials had hoped the station would be ready by September, but now they expect it will open sometime in October.
The delays aren’t the first for the Burgess station, which will sit along McDowell Shortcut Road between Tournament Boulevard and S.C. Highway 707.
For years, the district’s fourth station has been discussed but has seen one roadblock after another.
Local leaders opted not to pursue a tax increase for the station during the throes of the Great Recession, but they revived those conversations three years ago.
Under state law, the district’s board members, who are appointed, have the authority to raise taxes, but the law caps the district’s taxing rate, meaning any expansion beyond the limit would have to be approved by legislators.
State lawmakers signed off on an increase in 2014, but the measure was vetoed by Gov. Nikki Haley, who objected to an unelected board raising taxes with no voter input.
The compromise was last year’s referendum, which allowed the voters to have their say in the matter and they overwhelmingly supported the hike
The fast-growing district, which includes parts of Horry and Georgetown counties, was created in 1966 and had seen just one cap increase in 1992 before the hike voters approved last year.
Officials have estimated the increase would add about $16 a year in taxes to a home valued at $100,000.
Despite the difficulty in getting construction started, district leaders are pleased with the progress they’re finally making.
“We’re over there building now,” Hitchcock said. “It’s going up. ... They’re running smooth.”