After some delay, a plan to expand the Bluffton Township Fire District's Moss Creek-area station to make room for an EMS crew is back on track, a relief to nearby property owners concerned about faster emergency response.
Additions to Station 33 on Buckingham Plantation Drive to accommodate an ambulance and three new employees were approved on first reading Monday by Beaufort County Council. Two more readings are required.
A 2010 EMS study recommended placing a crew at the station, Fire Chief Barry Turner said.
The expansion will cost more than estimates from a year ago, when the project was last up for consideration. The renovations are expected to cost $736,600, instead of the original price of $500,000, county documents show.
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About $647,600 will come from the fire district's debt service and about $89,000 from its general fund.
The station serves Moss Creek, Buckingham, Windmill Harbour and other nearby neighborhoods, Turner said.
Turner said construction will start soon after the renovations receive council's final approval. The contract with Seabrook-based construction company Mitchell Brothers Inc. and Beaufort-based architects AAG Associates is already in hand, he said.
The project will expand the building and the apparatus bay area. Turner estimates it will be finished by the end of the year. The four firefighters stationed there will remain in the building during renovations, which will be timed to minimize disruptions, he said.
Councilman Rick Caporale said he started asking questions about the expansion several months ago after constituents in Windmill Harbour asked about its status. The project is "behind schedule" for council approval, he said. It was recommended for approval by a subcommittee and forwarded to council about a year ago.
However, it appears to be back on track now, he said.
"I was concerned with just getting an ambulance down there so my constituents would feel secure, and the county kept its word," Caporale said.
Windmill Harbour Property Owners Association president Mike Garrigan said residents worry that heavy traffic on U.S. 278 could delay EMS service.
"We have been looking forward to and were promised some time ago that a new substation would be coming," he said. "The fact that it's back on the agenda is good news."