The city of Beaufort has about $2.2 million it could commit to building a new fire station, city manager Scott Dadson said.
But the bond money must be used by summer; otherwise, the city could face penalties or have to return it.
As a result, city staff is pushing City Council to plan for a new Mossy Oaks station. The project has been discussed during the past year by council, staff, fire officials and architects with The Lawrence Group, which is under contract to help plan the station. The current station is old and inadequate, city officials say.
Dadson said the city is considering several properties on or within a few blocks of Ribaut Road, between Mossy Oaks Road and 1st Street. Some of those properties are for sale, and some are not. Preliminary plans call for a flexible design that would allow the building to be easily expanded to become the department's headquarters.
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To speed up the project, council might accept construction bids before designs for the station are complete, allowing the winning bidder to work with the architect to finish the drawings.
Dadson said that could cut as much as three months off the process and still give the city the control it seeks over the design and cost.
Councilman George O'Kelley Jr. was skeptical.
"If we tell you to create a building and say here's the money we want to spend, that hits me on the wrong side of the face," he said.
Councilman Mike Sutton said he wants the city to build an efficient, effective building, not a "Taj Mahal."
Mayor Billy Keyserling said the city should design and build to the same standards it expects of private developers. He pointed to the recently constructed, two-story McDonalds, which went through several design changes, as an example of high expectations.
"This is an opportunity and, I think, an obligation to have something that fits the standard of what we expect from other people," Keyserling said.
Dadson said the next seven weeks will be spent identifying and purchasing property, completing the conceptual designs and working on legal paperwork. If the combined design-and-build approach is used, the project could go out to bid soon after.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.
Recession delays fire station project, Feb. 9, 2009