In absence of grant, Bluffton to pay for demolition of three blighted buildings

Bluffton will have to use its own money to demolish three blighted buildings after state officials rejected the lowest bid for the work, making expected grant money unavailable.

The town estimates the demolitions -- at 134 Simmonsville Lane, 18 Dubois Lane and the town's old buildings and grounds facility at 67 Lawrence Street -- will cost $15,000, facilities director Tammy Malone said in an email Friday.

Since the grant money initially was expected to cover the cost, the town didn't budget for the projects.

Now, the money must come from the town's Growth Management budget, according to a Thursday email from town manager Anthony Barrett. He said the town expects to save some money by combining the work into one project rather than seeking separate bids on the three.

Officials had intended to use part of a $727,940 federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program grantfor the work.

But the state's housing authority, which must approve use of the money, rejected the low bid.

In addition, the grant money had to be earmaked for approved projects by Aug. 27.

The town was not informed of that deadline until Aug. 12 and did not have time to complete another bidding process, according to assistant town manager Marc Orlando.

Attempts to reach State Housing Finance and Development Authority officials Friday were unsuccessful.

Town staff intends to continue the demolitions at the direction of the Affordable Housing Subcommittee.

A request for contractor bids for the work will be posted on the town'swebsite Monday, according to Malone.The town has demolished 10 vacant, blighted structures and cleaned up several tons of barrels, tires, trash and other debris from six properties using the grant, according to Orlando.

Sharon Brown, who sat on the advisory committee for the Buck Island/Simmonsville roads neighborhood plan, cited the targeted Simmonsville property at last month's Town Council meeting.

"Safety is the first concern in that particular spot," she said. "A child could get lost in there and you'd never know."