Soil problems have added $70,000 and a few months' delay to construction of a fire station in Mossy Oaks, but city of Beaufort officials said Wednesday the project is moving forward.
In June, City Council authorized the $320,000 purchase of 1.19 acres of wooded property at 1120 Ribaut Road. The contract was expected to close by July 1, with designs, bid contracts and construction schedules ready 30 to 45 days later.
The property was owned by Andrew Sears and Macie Sears Scherick of Jacksonville, Fla., and Beaufort County property records had it assessed at $341,523.
The sale of the property did not close until September, however. Soil problems were discovered during pre-purchase testing. City manager Scott Dadson did not have details about the problems but said they were related to drainage.
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The solution is digging up and replacing five feet of soil, at an estimated cost of $70,000.
The closing was delayed while city staff sought cheaper alternatives, including buying other property, but came back to the original plan. The other properties considered -- some of which weren't for sale -- were priced similarly, and the city concluded that soil there might also have to be replaced, Dadson said.
"The fact of the matter is, we'd be doing about the same thing no matter which site we used," he said.
Officials also had a relatively small area to choose from, Dadson said, because it sought property directly on Ribaut Road and far enough away from schools, daycares or other facilities that might cause traffic problems.
Placing a station at 1120 Ribaut Road also is ideal for meeting Insurance Services Organization requirements for fire station locations, said Beaufort/Port Royal Fire Chief Sammy Negron. The ratings take into account how far stations are from each other and from the properties they protect.
The ISO ratings factor into insurance costs for the city and residents.
With the sale complete, officials hope to have the design complete by December, a groundbreaking in February, soil replacement in early spring and an opening next fall.
Architectural firm Hussey Gay Bell & DeYoung of Savannah has been working on designs since May. Negron said the focus has been on the interior of the building.
The station will be two stories and about 9,000 square feet, the chief added. No decision has been made about what to do with the current station at 2519 Mossy Oaks Road, which is about 2,000 square feet, Negron said.
The new station will include a training room that can accommodate about 50 students. It will be used primarily for fire training but will also be available for public use, Negron said.
Dadson said the additional cost will come out of the contingency fund for the $2.2 million project. Exact costs for the construction will not be known until designs are completed, but about 10 percent of the total project cost was set aside for contingencies. The money comes from a special tax district.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.